Dashboards are an essential tool for transforming data into business value. A smart dashboard uses data to show the real situation to specific groups of users. However, there is no single approach. Every business is an individual with its own goals, objectives and audience. To solve problems and achieve particular business goals, an individual approach to the dashboard development is required.
Practical Guidelines for Dashboard Development
- Understanding the audience
The first step in dashboard creating is defining the audience: users portrait creating, what information they need and how they will use it. More often, dashboards are designed for specific people and roles. Different business users have different data expectations and needs. Leader’s needs will differ from the manager’s needs, and manager’s needs from the analyst’s needs. The analyst needs multiple data views to get deeper insights into the data, and the operations manager needs to quickly understand whether there are deviations that require immediate action.
- Determining the type of dashboard
Having determined the target audience it’s necessary to choose the most appropriate dashboard type.
4 main types of BI dashboards:
- Executive dashboard – allows managers to track key performance indicators, analyze general trends for a longer period, get an idea of critical success factors, make forecasts;
- Operational dashboard – allows users to receive up-to-date information, identify the place and moment of deviations in the data occurrence;
- Tactical dashboard – allows users to track progress towards specific goals and make better decisions;
- Analytical dashboard – an interactive tool used by analysts for deep and detailed analysis and problem identification.
- KPI definition
It may seem that the panel should display absolutely all indicators. However, specific goals and objectives require specific indicators. At this stage the main task is to determine the main indicators that most accurately measure success.
- KPI display
The dashboard should display key metrics in a way that is understandable to the audience and the focus is directed there. For example, if the key metric is customer acquisition cost, the dashboard design should emphasize that.
- Chart type
By understanding what information users need to see it is possible to determine the appropriate type of charts.
Main chart types:
- Comparison charts (simple and clear visualization for comparing values, identifying trends, determining maximum and minimum values);
- Composition charts (provides users with the ability to see parts of a whole over time or over a static period);
- Distribution charts (helps users to easily see the status and trend of the data);
- Relationship charts (helps users identify correlations and relationships in data).
- UI Design Principles usage
Well-designed dashboards follow user interface design principles to guide users to the right information.
- Data organization. Using classic design and information hierarchy principles for clarity. Critical information should be placed at the top left because users usually scan horizontally across the page and then down;
- Limited number of charts and data points in the dashboard to avoid chaos, highlighting key indicators for easier information understanding;
- Visual cues. Using icons, buttons, text to display an element’s link to another page, adding clear calls to action;
- Correct color. Compliance of the dashboard design with the corporate style (colors, fonts, graphics), balanced color usage.
- Iteration and improvement
Before presenting a dashboard to a wide audience it is worth sharing with a few of its representatives, getting their feedback and making changes. After presenting the dashboard to the entire audience, it makes sense to observe a process of dashboard using and analyze user feedback.
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