What is a Dashboard and What Entails a Good Dashboard?

Dashboards can be defined as powerful and effective data management & visualization tools that offer critical pieces of information in a single screen. The data or information included within the dashboard can be in the form of maps, charts, or graphs. Just like the dashboard in a car, these powerful tools allow users to have a simplified and unified view of KPIs and other critical data.  

The launch of interactive and well-designed dashboards have paved a way for businesses to easily get business insights which were not possible until a few years ago. Gone are the days when business analysts relied on static reports to infer and make decisions about different business practises. Dashboards offer everything to end users and help them to make informed decisions regarding their business. 

Benefits Of Using Dashboards

Dashboards are extremely valuable to businesses and individual users mainly because they can transform business data into useful information. End-users will be able to gain insight into KPIs and other metrics in just a single glance. This will speed up the process of decision making and help them to save valuable amounts of time and money.  Here are some more benefits you can enjoy by using a dashboard. 

As mentioned earlier, a well-designed dashboard gives you a crystal clear idea on what is going on with your business. You will be easily able to identify what is working and what’s not. In addition, you will be able to track the number of visits, impressions, downloads, conversions, and more through the dashboard. Your dashboard will also give you valuable insights on which areas of your business are performing badly. 

This will help you to know which areas you need to focus more on and put better efforts. If you lack this knowledge, you will probably spend more time in the wrong areas, which will prevent your business from succeeding. In simple words, increasing sales and profit is way simpler when you know what’s working and what not. This is where a well-designed dashboard can be of great help to you. 

Elements of Effective Dashboards

You may have probably seen dashboards that display too much information or data. The major issue with such dashboards is that they confuse end users and make it very hard for them to find what they are looking for. Including relevant data and placing it in a clean and neat way is always the way to go when designing a dashboard. Here are some of the essential elements or characteristics every successful dashboard has. 

Leading indicators appear in the front and center

Some dashboard designers prefer to include vanity metrics on the center and front part of the dashboard. Vanity metrics are things like downloads and page views which may not correlate to engagement, website visits, and other data that really matter. So, instead of placing them right on the front or center portion of your dashboard, include KPIs and critical metrics here. 

Before placing a metric on your dashboard, be sure to ask yourself questions like : Is it helpful for end users and Will it help users to make an informed action? Always include metrics that will prove useful to end users and help them to improve their business in some way. 

Context

Context is a powerful element that is integral when it comes to designing dashboards. Dashboards that lack context will fail to offer any value to end users. Let us say that the conversion rate in a chart within the dashboards is around 20. Users may not be able to tell if the value is good or bad. So, you must give proper and clear context to the charts and graphs. 

One simple way to do this is to compare the numbers with the industry standard. If you are unable to track down the industry standard, compare the data with your business goal or results from previous years. This will help end users to tell if the value on a chart for a specific metric is satisfactory or not. 

Drill Down Data 

Many dashboards feel like they are just a graphical representation of data, and nothing more. This is mainly because some dashboards do not help users to drill down data or offer any data exploration methods.  This limits the effectiveness of the dashboard and users will have a hard time figuring things out.

Drill Down helps end users to view data in a wide variety of ways without the need to create new visualizations or reports. Users will be able to drill down to display detailed data or to find additional information regarding the same.

They are not overcrowded

One of the major issues with business dashboards is that they are usually overcrowded. Instead of focusing on KPIs and key business metrics, some dashboard designers try to cram an abundant amount of data into a single dashboard. The result is that it complicates things and makes the dashboard less useful.  

Overcrowded dashboards will confuse and overwhelm end users and they will have to spend more time identifying crucial data and other KPIs. So, do thorough research, as it will help you to identify the requirements of your audience. This will in turn make it easier for designers to decide which metrics they should include in their dashboard. 

They Use The Right Visualization Tools

Data visualizations should be able to present data in a simple and coherent way to help end understand what’s going on with integral business metrics. As businesses have started to collect more and more data, visualizations have become very vital to offer actionable insights to users. However, some dashboard designers often fail to choose accurate data visualization tools. 

Line Charts, Bar Charts, Area Charts, and Pie Charts are among popular data visualization tools used in dashboard design. Line charts are ideal when it comes to visualizing data over a continuous period of time while Bar charts are commonly used to compare different categories. So, it is best to do thorough research on Charts and data visualization tools to get a better understanding on what tool is the best choice for your design. 

What Entails a Good Dashboard 

A well-designed and effective dashboard is an excellent tool when it comes to information management. Dashboard simplifies the overwhelming process of data monitoring and helps businesses to easily track KPIs and more. 

In simple words, an effective dashboard can have a huge impact on the performance of your business. However, some businessmen often ask or wonder what exactly is a good dashboard. Here are a few factors that make a dashboard efficient, useful, and great.

Accuracy

An effective dashboard should be always accurate, which means that the data displayed in it should be correct. If end users are doubtful about the data provided in the dashboard, they will be hesitant to make decisions or actions. So, for some reason if the data displayed on your dashboard is inaccurate or needs correction, make necessary changes as soon as possible. 

The technique of batch processing is used by developers to load data from the production database to the dashboard. So, in some cases, the dashboard may not be displaying all of the data. If that’s the case, then you should give clear information about when it was last updated to avoid confusions. 

Clarity

The data displayed within the dashboard should not just be accurate, but it must also be crystal clear. A number of factors can have a huge impact on the clarity of the data and some of them are Fonts, Colors, Context, and Layout. 

You do not need to use highly decorative or eye catchy fonts for axel labels and chart titles. Instead, you should focus on using a Font that will make the text clear and readable. Experts recommend developers to use Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, or any other sans serif font. 

You will need to deliberately use colors to ensure visual clarity throughout the dashboard. It is best to avoid bright colors, as it will reduce eyestrain. Another handy tip is to use colors in similar saturation and lightness range so none of the group will stand out much when compared to others.

As we discussed earlier, providing context to different graphs and visualizations is also crucial. Finally, you should also opt for a clean and minimalist design with a simple layout. 

Usefulness

Usefulness is a factor that you will be able to track only after designing the dashboard and making it available for end users. You should regularly check whether users are coming back to your dashboard to gain insight on different business metrics or not. If you are able to see a drop in the number of views, you should start wondering why and follow the necessary steps to resolve the issue. 

An interesting point to note is that dashboards that are set up to help businesses make long-term decisions may be visited a bit less frequently. In such scenarios, end users will be returning to your dashboard on a monthly or quarterly basis. However, if the number of visits to your dashboard is still less, you will need to seriously think about its usability.

Conclusion

Designing an effective dashboard and leaving it at that is not always a good idea. The most important thing you need to do is to keep checking user visit stats and suggestions from your team or customers on how to make the dashboard better. As mentioned before, if users seem a little bit hesitant to revisit your dashboard, it is a critical issue that needs to be addressed as soon as you can. 

You should continue checking whether the dashboard is serving its intended purpose. If yes, the number of user visits and engagements would show it. If not, make necessary changes, look for any issues, resolve it, and keep on presenting useful and relevant information to users in a simplified manner.