You are Thinking Big and you want a dashboard. Are you looking for a way to tame Big Data? Do you just like really Big Charts? If you are not asking the right questions, you could end up with a Big Problem.
When designing your dashboard it is extremely important to think about the Big Picture. What story do you want your dashboard to tell? What information and insight into your business will your charts convey? Your dashboard should provide important information that is quick and easy to understand.
If you wrote a story, you would want someone to read it, wouldn’t you? When you build your dashboard, your goal should be to create something valuable, that you (and others) are going to use every day to make meaningful decisions. Storyboarding is critical to your dashboard design. Storyboarding is the process during which you plan out your entire dashboard – metrics, charts, drilldowns, interactivity, and data structure. If done properly, this will streamline your development and ultimately increase user adoption.
Think about your dashboard – now, think about every chart in your dashboard – and ask what purpose it serves. You only have so much screen real estate to work with, so you cannot afford to have charts that are not useful. Do not include charts and metrics simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. It is almost as though every chart should have to earn its place in your dashboard. If a chart’s metric is not important and no one is going to use it… then why include it?
Too often I see dashboards that attempt to replicate spreadsheets – endless rows and columns of text with no clear indication of importance or trends. If you are building a dashboard that is going to look just like a spreadsheet, then why not simply leave the data in a spreadsheet? You should never have to print out your dashboard and then spend 10 minutes trying to understand it. Your dashboard should give you quick, at-a-glance information about your business in seconds, not minutes.
For your dashboard, less detail is often more valuable. Focus on the Big Picture, and put details behind drilldowns. If you cannot understand your dashboard in a few seconds, go back and redesign it. And remember to Think Big!
Warren Singh– Technical Consultant, iDashboards