Dashboards and Data Viz | Design

Your dashboard is the key to your business. It holds all of the information you need to make informed decisions regarding your company at the click of a mouse. Of course, you probably already know that the beauty of a dashboard is that it visually displays your data through charts, graphs, and other unique animations.

Your #dashboard is the key to your #business. Click To Tweet

With so many chart types and color variations, design options are endless. Still, not every dashboard design is effective for relaying data. That’s why I’m sharing my top five dashboard design tips. These tips are sure to highlight your data, bring color to your dashboards, and really “wow” your viewers (yes, even your CEO).


1.     Lines, Treemaps, and Bars – Oh My!

I don’t know about you, but when I first started building dashboards, I was a little overwhelmed. After all, there are hundreds of chart types to choose from, and the pressure was on to make a dashboard that people will actually use!

That’s why it’s important to begin by meeting with whoever will be viewing the dashboard and follow the storyboarding process. Then, carefully choose the right charts to effectively tell your data’s story.  For example:

  • Line charts (aka line graphs) are great for showing information over a period time. For example, you can easily see trends for year-over-year (YOY) sales.
  • Treemaps can present a lot of information in a small area while showing the hierarchy within your data. For a great example, check out David McCandless’s Ted Talk on The Beauty of Data Visualization.
  • Bar charts are a popular choice because they are straightforward. If you want to quickly compare items in the same categories such as a population, this is a great way to go.

There are many other great charts to choose from, but, whichever you choose, remember to keep your data visualizations simple and easy to decipher.

Remember to keep your #dataviz simple and easy to decipher. Click To Tweet

2.     Avoid “Skittle Poxs”

Leave the rainbow to Skittles and keep your dashboard color palette simple.



Color can add extra context to your data; however, too many colors can actually make it worse. Keep in mind that 1 out of 200 women and 1 in 12 men are affected by color blindness (CVD). For this reason, primary colors are your best bet for most dashboards. You can also use applications such as Coblis to see how people with all types of color blindness will view your dashboards. Using Coblis, we can see how the same dashboard might appear to people with different types of color blindness.

Colorblind Safe Colors

Original Dashboard Example


Color Schemes for color blind

Dashboard Example for Red-Blindness aka Protanopia


Dashboard Example for Monochromacy aka Achromatopsia

Dashboard Example for Monochromacy aka Achromatopsia

3.    Cannot Compute…Information Overload

In my role as a marketer, I work with a lot of different reporting systems – Marketo, Moz, Google Analytics, and so on. They all have their own way of reporting data, but they don’t sync well enough to form the “big picture”. I’m sure you experience this same problem with your data applications. Luckily, a good dashboard solution can pull all the pertinent information on a single screen. However, it’s important to limit the number of charts and information on any given dashboard. It’s recommended to use four to six charts so that you can direct attention to your most important metrics. This will also help your dashboard design look neat and clean.

Read next: 5 Down & Dirty Tips for Clean Data Dashboards

4.     You Know the Drill

As previously mentioned, it’s important to keep your data concise. This is why drilldowns can be a life saver. If you’re in a meeting and asked to present more information around a particular metric, you can easily drill down (aka click on the chart) to show further detail – instead of sifting through various reports or switching back and forth between systems. If you have multiple dashboards that focus on similar metrics, you can even use drilldowns to directly connect those dashboards.

5.     Your Data. Your Way.

This is your dashboard. Own it! Put your logo on it, brand it with your company colors, add your team’s headshots, whatever you want. If you create dashboards that your team is happy to look at, they’re more likely to access and understand the data it displays. If you use web-based dashboards, you can continually evolve the way they look until you and/or your team love them.  Of course, as your business changes, so does the information – and, therefore, your dashboard changes too. But that’s part of the fun – to ultimately see your data, and business, grow.

BONUS TIP: Just like writing, your first draft isn’t necessarily your best. Always save a copy of your dashboard, and then tweak it and resave. Sometimes small changes, make a huge difference.

Sometimes small changes, make a huge difference. #dashboard #design Click To Tweet

dashboard designYour data can be a work of art! If you apply these dashboard design tips and other creative elements of design, your dashboard will certainly have a “wow” factor that can’t be ignored. Want to get more tips about dashboards or design best practices? Check out the iDashboards Learn Portal for the latest blogs, webinars, and guides.

Do you have other design tips to add? What is that makes your dashboards stand out?

Alternative Text

Alicia Beaubien Senior Content Manager @iDashboards

As a part of the iDashboards team since 2011, Alicia focuses on all things content and social media. Outside of the marketing realm, Alicia considers herself an athlete at heart – despite her height and typical clumsiness.


  1. What’s missing in your delivery is text fields that the metric owner can indicate Context of the data, Key insights of a month/quarter end report; Recommendations. This way the viewer doesn’t have to spend a lot of time interpretating the data (especially important for CEO) and it creates the right talking points as to whether or not the “owner” of the data is on that same page as the CEO or other key executives ultimately responsible for the data.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Ed! Context is so important when it comes to making your data impactful. We’re happy to report that our dashboards can absolutely support text boxes 🙂

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *