5 Essential Rules in Building the Perfect Dashboard

Dashboards have become the staple management reporting. There are dashboards for everything from content marketing initiatives and sales performance to stock management and logistics. Sadly, some of the dashboards fall short. Not because of a lack of effort but simply because, somewhere along the line, you moved away from the essentials that make a dashboard what it is.

Fortunately, these 5 essential rules will help ensure that your dashboard won’t fall flat on its face. It will be viewed as a helpful resource by your senior management figures rather than a burden.

Focus On Your Audience

The first rule of successful dashboard creation can be one of the most overlooked – keep your audience in mind. Ask yourself ‘Who am I creating this dashboard for?’ Follow up this question with, ‘What do they want to see?’ Most dashboard creators get through this initial question without a hitch but it’s the second question that becomes their undoing.

Dashboards should be built for a specific use-case, for example CFO’s who are after a break-down of last quarter’s financial performance or CMO’s who want to understand the performance of their latest content marketing campaign. This data should not be mixed – one use case per dashboard, please.

Comprehensive Formatting

Applying design principles, like color and proper design, is an undervalued method of showcasing the information you’ve found included in an interesting way to the user. Creating a dashboard is about more than collecting data. Even just a little bit of thought about the layout of the charts and other visualizations can go a long way.

Applying colour to the dashboard provides a much-needed facelift to what can be quite dull information and emphasize key elements of the dashboard where the users gaze should be drawn. Consider using contrasting colors on those key figures that you’re trying to highlight.

Don’t Skimp on Visualizations

With the technologies and solutions widely available to organizations nowadays, there really is no excuse for not presenting information in an engaging and interactive format. Remember that dashboards are used to tell a story within the data. The visualizations you choose are the medium that convey this to the user so they carry great importance.

Consider incorporating infographic-style visualizations to your dashboard to display information in an easily digestible manner. These type of visualizations lend themselves to storytelling better than others because they use visual cues to provide obvious context to the information displayed.

Granular Data Is A Maybe

I’m not saying granular is bad, quite the opposite actually. It just has a time and a place, like everything else. Most of the time, it wouldn’t be a problem because having access to the lowest-level raw data enables you to see all of the tiny details making up the bigger picture.

In a dashboard however, the goal is to provide a quick and clear overview of performance to the relevant managers. At this point, they are simply not interested in this granular-level of data so to include it in a dashboard report would only serve to make their job more difficult in dissecting and digesting the information available.

Focus on including high-level data for management dashboards and include the granular data in a separate report as part of a wider report pack. Then, upon spotting an area of interest, that management individual can investigate using the granular data available.

Use A Variety of Chart Types

The chart type you choose to display data has a big impact on how it will be understood. A common mistake is to already pre-plan what charts you want to use before even considering what the data will look like.

First, assess the data you have. What variables are there in the data that could impact on the chart type you use? Focus on building a good understanding of the data you are working with so that you are able to display findings in the best possible chart format.

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Written by:
Contributor to Smart Data Collective and iCrunchData News blogging communities. My posts are focused around how we can make better use out of the data that we have available to us and the latest innovations around big data and technology.
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