Dashboard Design Principles – How to Create Great Dashboards

Dashboard Design Principles – How to Create Great Dashboards

A good dashboard is a tool that can be used to quickly convey information to a user. The world revolves around data, and there’s a ton of it. A dashboard helps organize this data and helps the users make sense of it.

In this article, we’re going to go in-depth into the steps you’d generally have to take while designing or creating a dashboard. We’ll be discussing the planning, designing, and development of a dashboard, and we’ll even look into some great admin dashboard templates that you can use.

Contents

  • Types of dashboards
  • Designing the perfect dashboard
  1. Who is going to use the dashboard?
  2. What is the purpose of your dashboard?
  3. Include only what is important
  4. Show hierarchy?
  5. Give your data context
  6. Data visualization techniques
  7. Group related metrics together
  8. Consistency
  9. Use clear labels for the audience
  10. Round your numbers wherever needed
  11. Keep reviewing and improving your dashboards
  • How to design a KPI dashboard?
  • Admin dashboard templates

Types of Dashboards

Dashboards are used by different people for different needs. Since all of their needs differ, you’d be better off creating separate dashboards suited to their needs. Someone who needs a sales dashboard, will not need the same information an HR manager does. And for this one reason, keep things simple. Separate the information conveyed through different dashboards into different tabs or pages.

Choosing the right type of dashboard is an important step in creating the perfect dashboard. Here are some types of dashboards and their purposes.

Strategic dashboards

These dashboards focus on monitoring long-term strategies. Users should be able to analyze and benchmark a wide range of critical information by using a strategic dashboard.

Operational dashboards

This dashboard serves as a tool that users can use to monitor, measure, and manage operations with a shorter time scale.

Analytical dashboards

These dashboards contain a large amount of data that allow analysts to extract insights to help a company to progress at an executive level. This type of dashboard is perfect for data analysts, SEO analysts, etc.

Tactical dashboards

These are dashboards that are full of information that can be used to formulate strategies for a companies growth.

Every dashboard you create should be designed for a particular group, with their aims in mind. These dashboards will be responsible for the decision-making processes in an organization. Make sure you identify key information and leave out the ones that aren’t important. By doing this, you will create a dashboard that enhances the user’s productivity.

Designing the perfect dashboard

Designing a dashboard is not a difficult task. Here is a checklist that can help you design the dashboard you need.

  • Who is going to use the dashboard?
  • What is the purpose of your dashboard?
  • Include only what is important
  • Show hierarchy?
  • Give your data context
  • Data visualization techniques
  • Group related metrics together
  • Consistency
  • Use clear labels for the audience
  • Round your numbers wherever needed
  • Keep reviewing and improving your dashboards

Who is going to use the dashboard?

One of the main things to consider while designing your dashboard is your audience. Who’s going to use the dashboard? What’s your target audience? This information can help you fine-tune your dashboard to make sure that it’s perfect for your audience. It also pays to know how the audience might use your dashboard. What devices will they be using the dashboard on? Will they use it extensively for long periods of time, or will they need quick information on the go? This kind of information really helps when you’re creating a dashboard.

What is the purpose of your dashboard?

The first step to designing a dashboard is figuring out the purpose of your dashboard. What are you trying to achieve with your dashboard? Who is going to use it? Perhaps you need a sales dashboard that you can use to monitor sales on a weekly basis. Or you need to monitor website traffic, or a dashboard to make sure a particular type of problem or trend gets noticed. Knowing these details can help you create a dashboard that can better serve your audience.

Include only what is important

Every square inch on your dashboard is valuable. Having too much information on the screen will only confuse the audience. If you are struggling to cram too much information into one dashboard, you may need more than one dashboard. Make sure that the information on your dashboard aligns with the purpose of the dashboard. The information must also be easily understood. Choosing the right types of data visualization helps. We shall talk more about this in a later section.

Make use of size and space well

Dashboards need to be easy to scan. And for this, hierarchy is important. Make sure that the most important information on your dashboard has the right size and is in the right location. Use size and space to give emphasis to important information. By maintaining this consistency, you help create patterns and visual flow. Positioning the most important information is crucial. For example, your eyes are naturally drawn to the top left corner of the screen. You could place the most important piece of information there. Do not shy away from empty spaces either. If there are empty spaces on your dashboard, sometimes it’s best to leave them be instead of resizing something else to fir into that space. This also has the added benefit of eliminating clutter from a dashboard.

Data representation in dashboards

Data representation is key. You want your dashboard to represent data in a clear and approachable way. This is the most important thing your dashboard should achieve. Try to approach data representation from the audience’s point of view. If you make charts too difficult to understand, they will spend more time on data analysis. A user should receive all the necessary information they need on the charts.

It’s always a good idea to do your research and understand what a user may be looking for. What data do they need? An important feature that most people leave out, is the feature to compare data with the data from a previous period. This is something you can see in dashboards like Google Analytics, and even in the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress. Having such a feature in a dashboard built for monitoring sales is absolutely crucial.

Use the right type of chart

Using the right type of chart to visualize data is super important. You should understand what kind of information you need to convey and choose a data visualization that is suitable for the task. Here are some types of charts and the best way to use them

Pie charts

Pie charts can be instantly scanned, and information can quickly be grasped from them. These are great when you are comparing data segments and their contributions as a percentage of a whole. We recommend that using a bar chart instead of a pie chart.

Area chart

These are great for analyzing multidimensional data. It is helpful to analyze the magnitude of change over time and these charts can help with analyzing trends.

Bar charts

Bar graphs are great for showing the relation between a part to a whole, and it is great for discrete data. You can use bar graphs to show comparisons between data and to make generalizations about the data quickly.

Funnel charts

These charts are great to visualize optimizations. Funnel charts can help identify the importance of each stage. Use these charts if you want to analyze the stages in a sales/marketing process.

Line charts

These graphs are great at conveying changes over time. Line charts are used to convey how data changes over certain intervals of time.

Give your data context

The audience must be able to know if the numbers on a dashboard mean good or bad. Always give your numbers context. For example, if you got 1000 views on your blog post yesterday, how would you know if that’s a good number or not?

One easy way to do this is to include a feature where you can compare current data with past data. You can include the same metric for the past day, week, and month. This can be useful for monitoring the numbers and analyzing trends. You can also include average highs and lows. Another way of giving context to your numbers is by including a target and your current progress. You can set up alerts whenever a metric is above or below a certain value to help identify problems.

Group related metrics together

It makes more sense to position related metrics together. The information is easier to find, and it even makes the dashboard look simple and attractive. This grouping depends entirely on how the audience will use the dashboard, and it can vary for everyone. You can group by metric, category, team, region, etc. Giving a name to the group makes it easy to spot them.

Consistency

When you have multiple dashboards, there will obviously be repetitions. You could be showing the same set of metrics for different things/purposes. When this happens, always be consistent. Use the same layouts, charts, visualizations between groups. This makes the dashboard look much more visually pleasing, and makes the information much easier to skim through.

Use clear labels for the audience

Each metric and chart should have a clear label. These labels should be self-explanatory. Make sure these labels aren’t too long as you do not want to clutter up your dashboard. Use simple abbreviations wherever possible. Try to avoid repetition of labels too. If a group of metrics serve the same purpose, one common heading will be more than enough.

Round numbers wherever needed

There’s no need for more precision sometimes. For example, when you’re showing the metrics for bounce rate, there’s no need to show more than 2 places after the decimal. Round the numbers wherever possible to prevent unnecessary distractions.

Keep reviewing and improving your dashboards

Once the dashboard is ready, keep asking for feedback and check if the dashboard is accomplishing everything you wanted it to in the first step. If not, analyze the problems, find how you can improve, and keep making changes to the dashboard. It’s always a good idea to check how the audience is using the dashboard. What do they look at most often? What do they look at the least? Are they finding it difficult to use the dashboard? Is anything missing? Has the dashboard made things easier for them?

It’s always important not to get sidetracked while creating a dashboard. Make sure that your dashboard is doing everything that you planned.

Some quick tips on designing a dashboard

  • Do not create a one-size-fits-all dashboard. You do not want to mix data from different categories into one single dashboard. This can be very confusing for the audience.
  • Comparison values are highly important. The option to compare values to a different period must be present in your dashboard.
  • Choose the right kind of charts to represent data.
  • Limit the use of color.

How to design a KPI dashboard?

What is a KPI dashboard?

KPI (key performance indicator) dashboards are tools that unite data sources and give you easy-to-read visual feedback that shows you how your business is performing against key performance indicators. It is a fast and easy way to track KPIs and other business metrics.

How do I create a KPI dashboard?

The first step to creating a KPI dashboard is to define your KPIs. This is all about matching business objectives to internal processes. Think of KPIs as having specific targets that directly impacts business outcomes. An example for this is revenue.

Draw your dashboard

To start simple, take a pen and a piece of paper and sketch out your dashboard. When you start collecting KPIs, a design may come to you naturally. Test out different combinations of charts, tables, and all the stuff you need to monitor your KPIs. Sketch out this rough dashboard, and conduct a review with your stakeholders/team. Is the information conveyed clearly or are they more confused? If the latter is true, maybe you need to rethink your design.

Data visualizations, like mentioned above, should always be as simple as possible.

Choose the right dashboard template

Once you have a basic idea of how what your dashboard should have, it’s time to choose a dashboard template. There are many available options out there. There are some points to keep in mind while choosing a dashboard template. These are the price, time to deploy the dashboard, along with the number of features a dashboard provides. Make sure the template you choose is easy to set up and modify. It should also contain all the necessary plugins and components you need for your KPI dashboard.

If you need dashboards built with HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, Angular, React, Vue Js, consider checking out our dashboard templates.

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