Data CleanupDashboards are great, as they provide visualizations that help your users better understand your organization’s data at a quick glance. However, if you don’t keep design in mind when you’re creating dashboards, you may find that they look cluttered and lack readability. What use is your dashboard if your users can’t make sense of the information it’s showing?

In this Dashboard Design article, we’re going to take a look at 5 simple steps to help you create a cleaner looking dashboard that is much easier to read and digest. Pull out those (virtual) rags and gloves, and let’s get scrubbing…

Tweet: 5 steps to creating a cleaner looking dashboard

First, let’s examine the dashboard in Figure 1 (below).

Figure 1

 

As you can see, this dashboard is pretty nice, but it’s somewhat cluttered, as some of the elements are nearly touching. There’s a lot of info, and while it’s not unreadable, your eyes don’t quite know where to go and what to focus on.

Now let’s look at the same dashboard, but with a few minor changes. (Figure 2, below).

 

Figure 2

 

This dashboard looks much cleaner and more open than the first one does. There’s a lot more white space, which improves readability and helps you focus on what’s important.

Here are five easy steps to get from our first somewhat cluttered dashboard to our second clean, readable one. These steps focus on paying closer attention to the details, cleaning up discrepancies and aligning subtle elements within the dashboard.

Step 1:

Eliminate the outer border and lines that separate each report, line graph, bar chart, and gauge. (Figure 3)

 

Figure 3

 

Step 2:

Let’s look at the tables and indicators on the left side of the dashboard. Shift columns left to right until they line up from the top report down to the bottom report. In Figure 4, I’ve used light blue lines or guides to show you where the changes have been made.

 

Figure 4

 

Step 3:

Space the elements at equal distances from one another and move titles (Utilization, Finance, and Quality) into pockets that might otherwise simply exist as white space. (Figure 5)

 

Figure 5

 

By hiding the light blue guides (in Figure 6) we can see that the page is starting to look a little bit cleaner and easier to read. We’re making progress!

 

Figure 6

 

Step 4:

Let’s look at the two gauges in the bottom-right corner. Move them side by side (instead of stacked on top of each other) so they are a lot more readable in the available space (Figure 7). They feel less cramped in this configuration.

 

Figure 7

 

Step 5:

Look at the line and bar chart on the right side of the page below (Figure 8), and notice that the titles were centered over the original positions of these 2 charts.

 

Figure 8

 

Let’s align them with the left edge of their respective chart or indicator to match the formatting of the elements on the left of the dashboard (Figure 9).

 

Figure 9

 

Hiding the guides again reveals a much cleaner workspace than before. We did it!

In conclusion, simply paying a little closer attention to the details can help you deliver a more pleasant and efficient dashboard experience to your business intelligence users.

Want more dashboard design tips?

Check out our Dashboard Design archives for articles on creating color schemes, designing visually appealing dashboards, and much more!

Rose Weinberger, MBA