Dashboards communicate critical, pertinent data at a glance, saving users time and improving overall efficiency. In fact, dashboards provide such significant information that they often become a homepage for power users. To evaluate a dashboard as an asset for businesses, the first and most important step is to assure that it is addressing the customer’s goals and displaying the information they absolutely need to see to help make assertive data-driven decisions. An optimal dashboard should answer the most frequently asked business questions within 5 seconds, this is a good indicator of a successful dashboard visual layout.
Let’s look at what features help make an optimal dashboard and what tools to use to judge a dashboard’s performance.
Optimal Dashboard Layout
Because dashboards convey crucial information for decision makers, it is important to follow an organizational structure that allows a clear data hierarchy. One of the general rules is to have the key metrics at the top of the screen as a means to start off with the big picture being visible at a glance. Keeping the most significant, high-level insights at the top view, gives the user context on the data displayed on the dashboard, not only saving time but also allowing quick and efficient updates on their business goals and performance.
Context is key to allow for an easy understanding of the data displayed on the dashboard, therefore any additional information such as comparison values will allow a much more accurate comprehension of values. Graphs should also allow for a clear visual representation of data, through relevant titles, historic data and a projected target value.
Some might argue that all information is important and therefore feel the need to cram as much data on a dashboard as possible. This is why it’s crucial to have set goals and key metrics in mind while designing and evaluating a dashboard’s performance. Too much information can overwhelm your user as well as adding unnecessary designs, effects, or different fonts. The main goal of the dashboard is to provide the end user with a simple data-story with main points immediately available, ultimately simplifying your customer’s daily tasks.
To help organize and structure information, it is important to understand what kind of information your customer needs to analyze, as there are many different types of dashboards to help fit all business needs. There are three main types of dashboard designs:
- Operational dashboards: these dashboards are mainly used to display time relevant information, such as statuses and real-time traffic on an app or a site, alerting users of any abnormalities to be addressed.
- Analytical dashboards: these dashboards allow to analyze trends, comparing data to past performances and are usually represented by graphs for a clear view- targeting teams’ actionable data.
- Strategic dashboards: these dashboards aggregate mainly critical metrics (KPIs) that allow an appropriate performance analysis.
Measure a Dashboard’s Success
A successful dashboard should be able to provide clear answers to frequently asked questions and assist the decision making process efficiently, even for users who don’t use the platform regularly such as stakeholders. There are also indicators available to help measure efficiency and success and collect valuable feedback:
- Usage Rate: By scanning the backend users and analyzing the frequency in which they visit the dashboard helps understand how useful and helpful the data displayed is for their tasks. A high usage rate is a great indicator of a successful dashboard.
- Responsive Time: If the data is taking too long to load on a dashboard, this can interrupt a user’s flow and lose their attention. You can avoid this by reducing the input dataset size or adding master filters.
In short, an ideal dashboard saves your user time with a simple, easy to read hierarchy of key information. The dashboard’s layout and design should allow for a clear data-story, optimizing your user’s daily tasks and helping the decision making process, all at a glance.