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12 Best Practices for Dashboard Design

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Dashboards are a great way to display essential data necessary to achieve a particular objective. A good dashboard design will provide complex data visualization most comprehensively. But to create an operational dashboard, you need to know basic dashboard design principles that will guide you to the best design you can build yourself. This blog will cover best practices for dashboard design.

What Is The Purpose of Dashboards?

Dashboards present the most relevant data for stakeholders when they look at it. A good dashboard will present live data for instant situational awareness.

Dashboard users should be able to understand and interpret the most critical data, form key insights, and evaluate the progress towards key performance indicators (KPIs). A well-prepared board will show all the data on a visual display, showing only the most critical data points.

Another purpose of a dashboard is the quick identification of issues. This will enable users to dive straight into problematic marketing areas without wasting time digging through multiple data channels.

Best Practices for Dashboard Design

So we should aim for a dashboard design that shows useful metrics from real-time data sources and showcases business objectives in a single window.

It sounds quite a challenge, and it is. But with these essential dashboard design tips, you will be presenting data professionally in no time.

1. Determine the Purpose

To display information on the dashboard accurately, you must first determine the purpose it will serve. Dashboards are divided into several categories based on their purpose. The broadest and most common categories are analytical dashboards and operational dashboards. They can also have narrower categories, like financial dashboards, sales dashboards, and even strategic dashboards.

The main goal of operational dashboards is to quickly and clearly communicate relevant information to users who need immediate action. They are time-sensitive and help users to be proactive and efficient.

On the other hand, analytical dashboards are less time-sensitive and focus on helping readers analyze trends, make the best sense of the data, and drive decision-making. These two categories may take two completely different approaches to dashboard design.

When designing either of these dashboard formats, think about what data users expect to see. If their focus is on time-sensitive data, choose appropriate metrics with a visual-first approach without too many details.

On the other hand, if your dashboard is analytical and serves to drive business strategies, you can afford to go into more detail.

2. Simple Form

For an excellent dashboard design, one of the main goals is to present the relevant information in a simple & easy to understand form.

So, don’t present too much information or use more columns. Get rid of any redundant information. Utilize white space, leaving just enough for the viewer to comprehend the data structure.

3. Consistency

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Your general dashboard design has to stay consistent. Once you determine the dashboard’s purpose and establish its visual hierarchy and form, you cannot suddenly change these rules. Data is only one part of the overall consistency. You can’t control what marketing channels produce data, but you can control how you design and present relevant data.

Consistency comes in different forms. Small things like following consistent date formatting and naming conventions can make things easier for the user. Presenting data in line, pie, and bar charts of the same style will also help the user process data more accessible.

4. Proximity

To help readers understand the information more easily and quickly, you should present related details closer to each other instead of scattering them across the entire dashboard.

5. Alignment

Dashboard elements should be aligned for a balanced look that enables a good user experience. Grids allow you to obtain adequate consistency and alignment and make a template for your dashboard design.

6. Whitespace

Whitespace plays an important role in your dashboard design. It allows the reader to take a break from seeing all the information and leaves more time to process the data. Using whitespace prevents cluttered view and helps you to group related information visually. You might have heard it called negative space as well.

7. Color

Color plays a significant role in an effective dashboard design. Choosing the right colors and using maximum contrast can help you guide the reader through the information in a simple and easy-to-understand way. It can make the content easier to read. So, make sure to contrast colors and avoid using inefficient gradients.

8. Fonts

Unless there’s no reason to use a specific font, use the standard ones for your dashboard content. They are easier to scan, read, and understand. Don’t use ALL caps text since it makes the reading more difficult.

So, choose a standard font with a suitable size to present the information. Fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Roboto, and Calibri will do the trick

9. Number Formats

Use round numbers instead of long numbers whenever possible to prevent confusing the reader. Don’t forget to note that “numbers might not add up due to rounding.” It’s an easy way to explain why sometimes pie charts don’t add up to precisely a hundred or other similar cases.

10. Labels

Rotated labels are generally more difficult to read and absorb for the human mind. Therefore, use labels that communicate the information quickly and effectively. Standard abbreviations should be used whenever possible.

11. Personalization and Customization

Readers expect to find relevant information on their dashboard, and the two techniques that allow this to happen are personalization and customization.

Personalization is when you have a dashboard design that adheres to your client’s brand image. This can mean adding a logo, choosing appropriate chart colors, or adding specific labels to metrics or channels.

Customization is adapting the dashboard design to display relevant data and different key metrics. It can mean rearranging the dashboard assets to present data in another way. Or pick out and highlight different KPIs to match the client’s interest.

When designing dashboards, both personalization and customization should work in tandem.

12. Data Tables or Lists

Integrating data tables is useful when you have a lot of information for different items. They are the best way to present information, such as a list of clients with their ID, last activity, contacts, status, etc.

Data tables provide easy scalability and good use of space and can make the design process less complicated. They are easy to work with, as most people have experience working with Microsoft Excel. Just be sure to make the tables and lists less intimidating!

To Sum Up

Dashboards are supposed to deliver complex data in a simple way that would save time and effort. They should be structured in a way that will maintain a visual hierarchy. Whether or not they will serve this purpose depends on the dashboard design, which should be goal-centric and user-centered.

Even though each dashboard has a unique goal, limitations, and requirements, following these best practices will help you create excellent dashboard designs.

Thank you for reading.



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Arpit Malviya

Arpit Malviya works at Perficient as a technical consultant. He has worked in the Power BI & Data Analysis field since 2019.

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