A well-constructed and organized dashboard empowers users to make better data-driven decisions. But how can you recognize readability issues in your dashboards while you build them to avoid wasting time and endlessly redoing your work? If you’ve read our Building Data Dashboards for Business Professionals and 6 Tips for Data Teams, then you know how important planning and communication are when building dashboards. In this very visual post, we’ll discuss the elements that make or break a dashboard and dissect two examples.
The two dashboards below were created from the same set of data. The first one contains some poor design choices, while the second is built to optimize readability and preserve insights. The positive and negative aspects have been highlighted in each one so you can learn from the decisions made in both dashboards. Read on and you’ll be on your way to building better dashboards.
Pitfalls of a disorganized dashboard
This chart presents a lot of information, but none of it goes together to answer any important questions. Ironically, the total is less than the sum of its parts. Who is this for? What is it supposed to tell the reader? It’s also haphazardly arranged.
There’s no logical narrative to guide the reader’s eye or lead them from one section to the next and help them understand what they’re looking at or where to find what they want. There are valuable fragments here, but this dashboard doesn’t tell a cohesive story. Actionable business insights are hard to find and some of the internal columns even lack headings telling the reader what they are.
Additionally, while some KPIs (Win Probability) are clearly displayed as standalone bits of information, they are less than useful. Cramming every piece of data into one dashboard won’t necessarily make it better. It’s important to give readers context and related data to help them understand how everything fits together.
Building a well-organized dashboard
Now that you’ve gone through the “what not to do” dashboard, you can really appreciate what this one does right. First off, we get a clear title at the top: “Per Trial Dashboard.” All these metrics will help the reader understand the metrics around how users interact with their trial software. The dashboard creator also provided an important metric (Total Hours on Site) in the top-left corner and filled the dashboard with charts that give more context to that number. This dashboard tells an organized story about a metric we want to track and why it moves the way it does.
The other visualizations answer questions about who is spending time on the site and how they are using that time. The numbers presented follow an easy-to-understand progression, there’s contextual data to help the reader understand them, and users can drill down further to answer questions as they arise. The image below lays out the key design elements and how they work together to create a powerful experience.
Now you’ve seen how the visual elements work together to reflect all the hard work you put into the planning process and you’re equipped to apply them to your own dashboards. Happy building!