Keep Calm and Chart On

I’ll let you in on a secret. Your charts don’t have to be perfect. There, I’ve said it, so now you know. Go forth, build charts, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Oh, you are still reading? OK, let me explain. Charts and dashboards should evolve, so don’t spend too much time worrying about Version 1.0. When you are prototyping quickly you don’t need to worry about creating the perfect charts, layouts, or colors on the first try. As your data comes to life with visual dashboards, your storyboards can and will change. If storyboarding was a one-shot deal we would carve them in stone instead of drawing them on whiteboards.

“Save As” is my second most-used feature in iDashboards (my favorite is the “Preview” button, which lets me test design tweaks on the fly). Every time I train new users, I compare iDashboards to a digital camera. Years ago, you had to worry about the cost of film but with a digital camera, you can take as many pictures as you like. With iDashboards you are not paying per chart or per dashboard, so make as many as you like! When you are done, you can go back and delete any charts/dashboards/pictures that you really do not need.

Saving multiple versions of dashboards and charts is a key part of my workflow, and I highly recommend the same for yours. Whether it’s trying out different layouts or overhauling existing dashboards with new metrics, it’s always good to keep backups of your older designs. Select “Save As” from the right-click menu, and simply increment the version number of your dashboard or chart. You never know when you might show off a new design to your end users and they say “Oh you know what, the old version was better.” If you overwrote it, you might have to rebuild it from scratch! Of course, not every change has to be versioned; you can make a judgment call on how significant the change is.

I always remember the user who added a version number to his first practice dashboard, not as ‘v1’ or ‘v01’, but ‘v001’. Seeing my confused look, he said, “I know I will make that many versions!” It may have been overkill, but he definitely had the right attitude from the start. Don’t be afraid to make new charts, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

In the future, we will share other design tips, tricks, and shortcuts to simplify your dashboard development. In the meantime, Keep Calm and Chart On!

Warren Singh– Technical Consultant, iDashboards

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