5 Quick Tips for Better Dashboards

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5 Quick Tips for Better Dashboards

Dashboard DesignOne of the things we’re most often asked by our customers is, “How can we design dashboards that look great and meet our customers/users needs?” Answering this question fully relies on the type of information that is displayed and the type of user a dashboard is geared towards. It is all too easy to fall into the common dashboard design pitfalls which make a dashboard anywhere from daunting to outright confusing. We’ve put together a list of simple dashboard design best practices to help you avoid these pitfalls and create stunning, easy-to-use dashboards.

Who’s Your Target User?

The first question we ask when helping a customer build a dashboard in JReport is, “Who’s Your Target User?” It seems like a simple question, but you’d be surprised how often we get blank stares back when it’s asked. Taking the time to understand the type of user who will be using your dashboard gives you a starting point for defining the essential features that will make a dashboard successful. Ensure that the user can answer specific questions about their data such as ‘what information do I want to see in the dashboard?’, ‘what questions do I need to answer with this data’ and ‘how can I organize the information for easy interpretation?’. By understanding these aspects of what the user is looking for, we can establish the context in which the dashboard will be utilized.

Use the Right Chart Types

Data visualizations are incredibly helpful for understanding data. The most important aspect of a visualization is to present data in a simple design where users can understand their information without wasting time. Effective visuals include charts, pie charts, and line graphs that consist of a few simple colors and labels that specify parts of the chart. A good practice is to avoid complex visualization structures, which usually feature excess labels/numbers, distracting colors, and too many details. Remove any extra details that do not pertain with the major focus. The objective of using these mediums is to provide a simple outlook of the user’s data.

Group Related Data

Clustering relevant data in logical order ensures ease of navigation for the user. If several users are accessing dashboards, they can conveniently locate their information without having to search through all of the dashboards. Structuring data in a simple and efficient method will make it breeze for users to identify the most significant dimensions of their information. Also, consider if users prefer horizontal or vertical oriented dashboards. It is important to set up the dashboard so that the drill-down or filter on one part of the dashboard will propagate to other relevant parts so that the users get a consistent view of the information. Systems that support this functionality will provide an important advantage for users to see consistent information. See JReport’s dashboard software as an example. Determining small details such as these can accelerate the time it takes for users to find the data they want.

Less Is More

A great practice is to have dashboards that give a brief synopsis of more detailed oriented views.  This approach will allow users to spend less time finding what they want and more time interpreting information. A simple dashboard will present key components of the user’s data without overwhelming them. Think about what important points of data users want to know at first glance. Users should be allowed to see the important aspects of data and have the option of going deeper if they would like to learn more.

Avoid Common Pitfalls

Simple and clean dashboards only include necessary text/labels, graphics, and colors that are light to the eye. Always present data with context so that users do not have to struggle to find the correct pieces of information. While simplicity is a must, include additional options such as filters, which provide users with more power over details. As mentioned before, users sometimes won’t know what exactly they are looking for in a dashboard. To tackle this problem, dashboards should ask users what their problems are and offer various solutions in which users can pick from.


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