There is no harm if a car dashboard comes to your mind when we talk about software dashboards. Because both pretty much do the same thing. On a car dashboard, you have almost all the tools to monitor the performance of the car. Likewise, a software dashboard gives you the bird’s eye view of your entire organization’s functionality, almost on a single screen.
However, that does not mean that you blindly stuff all your enterprise data into a single screen. The the CMS dashboard designing has its own set of principles and best practices to be adhered for an effective outcome. Or else the entire purpose is lost.
Three widely used dashboards:
- Strategic dashboards: Meant to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), to align strategic goals
- Operational dashboards: The most commonly used. Designed to monitor and analyze a company’s activity on a given business area
- Tactical dashboards: Falls between strategic and operational; used to monitor the process that supports a company’s strategic initiatives
Be it strategic, operational or tactical dashboards, here are some of the crucial design mistakes that developers and dashboard designers need to be aware of.
- Displaying too many and unnecessary metrics
It is naturally tempting to have a lot of metrics on your screen. But too many and needless metrics can be confusing and can hamper your dashboard. Of course there is no hard and fast rule for a specific number of metrics to be used, but less is better. Your deep-dives and intricate analysis could be managed somewhere else.
One way to tackle this is to start small and build up slowly. However, if you have many metrics which are all essential, split them into separate dashboards.
- Inconsistent design
A typical organization dashboard consists of charts, metrics, statistics, analytics, layouts, and so on. If these are projected inconsistently your dashboard may become futile. It becomes a bad design.
The whole idea of developing dashboards are not to make them fancy, but to make them easy to follow and take decisions.
The look and feel should be consistent throughout the dashboard. Let the grid pattern, functionality arrangement, and color themes follow a consistent design structure.
Incosistent Design Source: Fusioncharts
Consistent Design Source: Datapine
- Blindly positioned metrics and poor hierarchy
Space is a valuable element in a dashboard. It has to be used wisely. Most of the space constraints are the result of random positioning, and with no (or poor) hierarchy. Studies have shown that positioning the largest metric towards the top-left of the screen gives a better impact and makes way for better comprehension.
See how the largest metrics is positioned at the top-left
If you are finding it difficult to follow a particular hierarchy structure, you can group them. For example, if you have different areas and different metrics for each, group them area wise.
See how grouping is done. Source: Geckoboard
- Not having clear titles
This might not appear to be crucial nor does it have anything to do with designing, but turst me, titles are one of the most overlooked aspects of dashboard. You might have fantastic metrics, but if you have vague titles above them, the whole essence is lost.
Provide titles that are straightforward and easy to understand, and above all, let it be true to the metrics you are referring to.
- Not using the right type of chart
There are several types of charts, each modelled to convey specific details. But sadly, many of the charts are wrongly used, leading to confusion. Here are some of the chart types.
- Line charts – to display patterns of change
- Pie charts – most commonly used. To show the percentage.
- Bar charts – to compare items in the same category
- Scatterplots – to show how one variable is affecting the other
- Sparklines – it is a graph without axeses, used for representing numerical/statistical within a piece of text
- Bubble charts – these are not widely used as they demand too much attention from user, however it is used to showcase three dimension of the data.
- Ignoring target audience
As an enterprise or a company, if you develop a dashboard without knowing who you target audience is, the chances are high that the dashboards may not likely serve the purpose. If the right analytics are shown to wrong audience, it useless. It’s that simple.
Before you design and develop your dashboard, it is very important to know for whom you are building it. Is it for CEOs? Mid-level managers? Sales department? etc. It is important to consult the audiences to understand their goals and requirements.
It is quite natural to get carried away by vibrant designs. Visual appeal and insightful data both have to be equal on the scale; insightful data can weigh more, but not the opposite. This does not mean that you downplay the design aspect. It’s just that overdesigning can easily overshadow data and insights – which is what matters at the end of the day.
Here’s an example of a dashboard that is focused more on design than insights. The design looks forced and the insights are lost.
Balanced amount of data or metrics, how they are visually positioned, how easy it is understand, all these factors can directly influence the users. When you overdesign, all these factor could get lost in the jungle of hardcore designs. So, don’t over design.
A lot of things goes into building an effective dashboard. Being wary of the common pitfalls can help designers, developers and the enterprise owners to save time and money. Once you know the mistakes to avoid, your road to developing an effective dashboard becomes less bumpy and hassle-free. We hope this checklist has given you a clear idea of what not to do and what you should do. Happy designing!
Do you have dashboard project in your mind? Get in touch with us. Ideaplunge is one of the top wordpress development companies in Bangalore, offering innovative and intuitive dashboard solutions to startups and Fortune 500 companies.