How to Design Effective Information Dashboards for your Business

An Information Dashboard is a real-time display of the key performance indicators of your business. It tells you how your business is doing, which business areas are performing well and which ones need to be improved.  Here’s an example of an information dashboard. ux1 Well-designed dashboards make it easy to understand critical information and gain insights. If not designed properly, they can hurt your business instead of helping it. For example, your CEO won’t be able to spot risks immediately, and critical areas that need urgent attention may get ignored. If your team doesn’t view relevant information at the right time, it may lose focus and move in the wrong direction. Here are 6 tips you can use to design effective information dashboards for your business.
  1. Identify the objective
Identify a single business objective you are trying to accomplish, and design a dashboard around it. For example, your objective may be to get 20,000 signups in the next 6 months; achieve monthly sales of $25,000, etc. Setting objectives helps you focus on the key metrics to be displayed and exclude the irrelevant ones.
  1. Determine the audience
You need to ask yourself, “Who will see this dashboard and what will they look for?” Operations team, Product Managers, Executives, etc.? Different team members look for different kinds of information. For example, Executives are generally interested in high-level performance such as total signups or monthly active users over past few months. More tactical members like Product Managers, Marketing Managers, etc. want to monitor day-to-day performance and spot deviations from the norm. The most effective dashboards display information relevant to a single type of user.
  1. Layout the components logically
We know from UX studies that when we see a web page, our eyes generally start at the top-left region of the page. As we read the contents, our eyes move from left to right. Well-designed dashboards take advantage of this natural reading pattern. As a dashboard design strategy, place the most urgent and important information at the top-left region of the dashboard. Low-priority and infrequently-changing information should be placed towards the bottom region of the dashboard.
  1. Group related components
Grouping related information enables users to discover and understand connections between them. On the other hand, placing related elements far apart can confuse the user and make it harder to see the big picture.
  1. Use colors strategically
Dashboards are often packed with a lot of information and can be, sometimes, overwhelming. Colors can be used to highlight key information and to show information relationships. This helps users gain insights easily. Consider the following dashboard: ux2 In the above dashboard, you can see an implied grouping of charts based on positioning and color scheme:
  • The top row shows overall sales metrics
  • The middle row shows product sales metrics
  • The bottom row shows regional sales metrics
As you can see, smart use of positioning and color helps users group and compare related information easily.
  1. Use the right type of visualization
Choosing the inappropriate visualization is one of the most common design mistakes made in dashboard design. It conveys the wrong message and might confuse the viewer. For example, both charts below show the same data. ux3   The sales trend is obvious in the second chart. In the first chart, you end up wasting time between legend and the pie slices. Here’s a handy diagram to help you choose the right visualization to use in your dashboard.   ux4 Source: Conclusion Well-designed dashboards enable effective communication of ideas & insights. They empower users to quickly spot opportunities & make better decisions. On the other hand, a poorly designed dashboard can confuse users and waste time.   Author Bio: Sreeram Sreenivasan is the Founder of Ubiq, a web-based Reporting Application for Small Businesses. Hes interested in the latest Business Technologies & Trends. Before Ubiq, he has helped Fortune 500 companies in various Consulting & Data Analysis projects.  
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