Dashboards and Data Viz

Looking for ways to better relay your data’s story? You’re not alone. There’s a rising need for data storytellers to visualize their data and turn it into captivating, comprehensive stories. Why?

Studies show that society can quickly process visual information – even in as little as 13 milliseconds! An infographic, photo or chart speaks volumes, especially when compared side-by-side to a lengthy, wordy document. Follow these five tips and tricks to easily take your chart building and data visualization to the next level.

5 Effective Chart Building Tips:

1. Planning and Storyboarding

Storyboarding isn’t just for Hollywood film sets. Here at iDashboards, our goal is to help our clients organize their data into the most effective charts and graphs for their key performance indicators (KPIs).

We start by choosing metrics we want to use on the dashboard and establish each metric’s “Product, Group and Timeframe”. Typically, we recommend 4-6 metrics per dashboard. Next, we utilize a whiteboard to draw out 4-6 frames for a visual reference that is easy to adjust as your plans progress. From there, we include a sketch of a chart or graph in each frame to see which will best fit the data. The final step is adding the appropriate colors to the charts.

While storyboarding may seem like a long, daunting process, it allows dashboards to be built exactly how you need them to ensure successful implementation. For a more in-depth look at storyboarding, check out The Ultimate Guide to Storyboarding.

 2. Simplify

We all know the saying: less is more. Having a chart that is overly cluttered makes it difficult to read, and quite frankly, uninteresting. The last thing you want is for your audience to ditch your chart because it was confusing. If you have a certain piece of data that is more important than the rest, be sure to highlight it and make it more dominant in order to capture your audience’s attention.

Your chart’s structure should also be simple and easy to read. We naturally read from left to right and top to bottom – structure your chart building as such.

 3. Consider Colors

Colors are everything when it comes to visual data. For example, monochromatic color scales work best for continuous data because it keeps everything in the same concise color palette.

Additionally, the right colors make data much easier to read. Take the charts below for example. The only difference between the two charts is the assignment of colors. The chart on the left uses default palettes and the chart on the right uses semantically resonant colors. The Harvard Business Review reports that the chart on the right took people less time to complete a comparison task. Semantically resonant colors add an element of familiarity to a chart, making it easier to decipher.


Avoid using too many colors in a chart because they can be perceived as chaotic and confusing for your audience. Take colors that may affect color blindness into consideration when creating your charts. Studies show that one in 12 men and one in 200 women are affected each year.

Read next: Keep the End (User) in Mind in Dashboard Design

4. Presentation

Choosing the best type of chart for your presentation is important. For example, which would win in the battle of column charts vs. pie charts? Both, but in different circumstances. Column charts and line charts are good for showing data over a period of time. Pie charts are best used for portions of data that are being compared as a whole. Additionally, putting your most valuable data on the X and Y-axis will keep you relevant.

 5. Consider audience platforms

Before you begin creating your chart, ask yourself, “How will my audience be looking at this?” In today’s age of the smartphone, there’s a good chance your audience will be accessing a dashboard on a screen much smaller than a computer’s. Make sure the data on your chart is legible. Something as simple as aligning your chart horizontally so the labels are easier to read makes a world of difference.

Keep these five simple tips in mind when putting your data and information into charts. What’s your favorite rule to live by when chart building? Leave a comment below!

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Warren Singh

Warren Singh heads the training and consulting team at iDashboards. He is passionate about teaching new dashboard tips and tricks, and truly believes that if you storyboard it, you can build it and they will come.


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