Dashboard Design Best Practices

Dashboard design for business intelligence systems is more of an art than it is a science. Designing a user interface is about creating an experience that communicates effectively with the user. That can be difficult. You have to be careful what kind of information is being displayed, if it’s actually relevant, and how much data you are displaying. You also need to be careful how it is being displayed. Let’s go over some of the key ideas to designing a good dashboard.


Pick the Right Data

This is the part where you really get down and dirty with the stakeholders (which, in this case, are usually managers and executives). You need to understand what kind of data they are looking for, where the data comes from, how it’s tabulated, what data they actually need (which is different than what they want), and what data they don’t need.

Organize The Data

Once you have information about the data, you need to understand what that data is saying. This is very important because depending on what that data is communicating you may need to present it in different ways. There is a reason why stock quotes are displayed with a line graph and market share is typically displayed in a pie graph. The line graph can better show the history of a stock as it relates to itself as to where a pie chart can better visualize the chunk of market share is it relates to the entire system.

Good BI systems like Tableau and QlickView can help create quick and easy graphs and charts to display these types of data.

Designing the Backend

Unfortunately, designing a good interface means you are going to have to get dirty with the backend a little bit. The backend of the user experience is what connects the front end graphical display with the data warehouse of the business. You need a way of pulling in data quickly without disrupting the experience. Knowing how and when to refresh data is important.

Tableau, PowerBI, and Qlikview are also good products to handle the data flow. Their business is creating user-friendly BI so they take care of the nitty-gritty for you. It means that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and you can produce the data you need and get down to business.

Use Good Design Principles

There are some very basic design principles that everyone should follow but we may sometimes forget.
• Don’t forget about the color-blind. Some people can’t see red or green. Be careful using these colors to highlight data, or if you have no choice, create other means of differing the data too.
• Use contrasting colors to create clear dividers between sections
• Always create clear and concise headers
• Try to make visuals speak for themselves. If you have to add a lot of explanation, it’s time to redesign.
Prototype, Prototype, Prototype

A UI design doesn’t have to be a final product. In fact, it can be a living organic thing. That doesn’t mean that you should deploy the dashboard as soon as you are done your first rig. Bring it to people and get them to use it. Watch them use it. Pay attention to where they have trouble, make notes and ask them why they stumbled. Be humble about the process. It will make a better product in the end.

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