Heads of business functions are increasingly relying on Business Intelligence to deliver effective dashboards.
Visual Design is the cornerstone of an effective dashboard. Often visual design is confused with visual appeal, but this does not automatically translate into effective communication. It is imperative to include certain best practices of visual design to enhance the communication of data.
Understand your audience’s needs
The first rule of a well-designed dashboard is that it keeps in mind the requirements of the recipients.
In other words, BI teams must understand and appreciate the functional heads – their challenges, the decisions they need to make and how the dashboard provides an input to take those decisions – just as much as they understand technology.
Take, for instance, Competition Dashboard. Decisions in terms of KPIs to be included, importance of each KPI etc. will become clear as BI teams understand how this information will be beneficial to decision makers.
E.g. Is acquisition a larger challenge vis-à-vis competition or is it retention? Are there vulnerable markets? Which lead indicators have been found to be most reliable by business heads?
Having the right tools is critically important, but the people and functional aspect of data analytics is what keeps it relevant.
Importance of visual elements
Effective visual display of data involves decisions such as whether to use a table or a graph. Having said that, dashboards that include more graphs are more effective: Pictorial representation can be scanned, assimilated and retained better than plain text without attention to visual design.
The next set of decisions involve the right type of graph for the data & its message as well as appropriate design & colour scheme for all components of the display.
All these elements must contribute to the message, and not add clutter or distraction, that will hinder readability or overall communication. E.g. Using pie-charts to indicate market share makes sense; however, they are not ideal for very large sets of data involving marginal slivers in the pie.
Ideally, all the key metrics should be consolidated and arranged on a single screen, without having to scroll vertically or horizontally, so that the overview is available at a glance. A good way to incorporate additional information could be to include gateways that lead to drill-downs.
Effective use of virtual spaces
An effective dashboard needs to be organized with appropriate placement of information, based on importance and desired viewing sequence. At the same time, its visual design must segregate data into meaningful groups.
Human Beings read from left to right, and from top to bottom. One of the ways to use this insight is to arrange your data in such a way that it flows in that order of logic.
This insight also leads to the conclusion that the top left corner is the prime real estate on your dashboard. And hence, you can reserve it to highlight the most important indicator/ takeaway, e.g. sudden surge in a competitor’s market share.
Again, data that should be compared – needs to be arranged and visually designed to encourage comparisons, e.g. using similar colour schemes to compare competitor performance in similar markets.
According to Steve Jobs,
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”.
For the visual design of a dashboard to work, it must communicate relevant information quickly & clearly – with or without the beautiful gauges, meters and traffic lights.
Get your custom-made visual dashboard designed today!