How to Create a Dashboard Design Look Book (#1 in a Series)

dashboard-design-look-bookIn the past, I’ve written articles about dashboard design at a conceptual level, dispensing advice about how much white space to use or sharing thoughts about whether to use images. Today, I want to share something more concrete: step-by-step instructions to set up a dashboard so that you save time on design. This will become a sort of Dashboard Design Look Book once we create several different dashboards.

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Here’s what I did: I selected some interesting-looking dashboard designs from our company’s archives and then I reverse engineered them. Now, with the instructions I’m supplying, you should be able to create the same look and feel in your own interface – whether it be DivePort or another tool. I’ll do a different look and feel each month so you will have a variety of dashboards to build easily! (more…)

How to Select Charts for Effective Data Display

effective data displayToday’s dashboard environments provide dashboard designers with a rich set of indicators and charts, ranging from bullet graphs to spark lines to bar charts to bubble graphs. Additionally, numerous formatting options such as splines and 3D displays add even more complexity.

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To the casual observer, charts may appear to be largely interchangeable and are simply left to the discretion of the dashboard designer. But as the art and science of effective dashboard design has evolved, data visualization gurus have established some guidelines regarding which charts and indicators to use for various types of data and how to present those charts most effectively. This matter is receiving increasing media attention as dashboards migrate to the limited display “real estate” found on mobile devices, placing a premium on efficient dashboard-based information delivery. Here we’ll examine the best ways for effective data display so your users clearly understand the data. (more…)

How to Get Some Dashboard Design Inspiration

girl-has-idea-minAs a designer, I know – everyone gets bored with design from time-to-time. You *could* imitate someone else’s design or flat-out use a template. But that feels a little like “cheating” – especially when the design you are creating is for a high-paying client with high-level expectations. It’s times like these that we all need some creative inspiration. So I’d like to help by sharing with you my favorite dashboard design inspiration.

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Because creative roadblocks are not uncommon, there are actually a whole slew of tools that have been built to help people when they are stuck. My favorite is Roger Von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack. The author published this deck of cards after writing his first book, A Kick in the Pants, which is also very good for stimulating inspiration. Here’s a sampling of the cards in the Whack Pack to give you a sense of how these can help. (more…)

How to Design a Print-Ready DivePort Page

desktop-dashboard-user-minOftentimes, dashboard designers create a page that is so valuable to users that inevitably, someone wants to share the material as a PDF. When this happens, it is important that the page is what I call “print-ready”.  The page needs to have been previously set up in such a way that it will look good in an 8.5” x 11” layout.

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Recently, we received a comment from a blog reader asking us just how to do this. So we’ve decided to share these step-by-step instructions in this month’s Dashboard Design blog post. (more…)

How to Use a Feedback Loop to Refine Your Dashboard Design

Feedback loopThere are tons of dashboard design examples on the Internet. Just Google “dashboard design examples” yourself and you’ll see. (I got 1,060,000 results!) If you click on any of the results, you will notice that some of these pages offer free templates of dashboard designs.

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Using one of these can be a fast and easy way to create a dashboard. But will it be a dashboard that your users love and enjoy using? We all know there are lots of different dashboard designs and advice about best practices. But which design is best for YOUR users and their needs? There is a way to find out and you do so with what’s called a “feedback loop.” (more…)

How to Determine the Ideal Screen Dimensions for Dashboards

3-monitors-with-the-diver-solution-smallMy last Dashboard Design article focused on how to use the Law of Thirds and the Golden Rule to help designers layout their dashboards. In that article, I redesigned one dashboard layout using the Rule of Thirds principle because on *my* monitor the existing layout looked bad. When I wrote that article, I felt a little uneasy because I knew that the original layout would look good on some monitors. Fact is, what does or doesn’t look good all comes down to screen resolution.

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One of the biggest challenges in designing dashboards is that there are so many different screen resolutions available on computer monitors. I recently checked Google Analytics for statistics on our company website and found that in the last year, our website viewers were seeing it on a total of 801 different screen resolutions! With so many different screen resolutions out there, how can you determine the ideal screen dimensions for dashboards? Let’s find out. (more…)

How to Design a Dashboard When You’re Not a Graphic Designer

“I’m not a designer, dang it!”

Does that sentiment sound familiar to you? You’re not alone. Lots of IT professionals find themselves in this situation. You’ve been asked to create a dashboard design that is pleasing to your users, but you have no design training to fall back on while creating the dashboard.

The problem is that business intelligence professionals working in IT have lots to do:

  • Writing code
  • Understanding business rules and how to apply them to the dashboards
  • Integrating tons of data
  • Pleasing lots of users with varied backgrounds

With so much to do, wouldn’t it be nice to find a FAST way to design your dashboard AND know that it’s going to look good in the end?

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Try this advice on the best way to arrange elements on a dashboard page. (more…)

How to Use Location Intelligence to Turbo-Charge Your Analytics

Location intelligence is not new. People have been analyzing demographic data by comparing region to region for many years. Just think of Walter Cronkite standing in front of a map of the U.S. with each state colored blue or red as votes came in for the presidential election. You may have heard of “mapping software” at some point in the past. Yeah. That’s location intelligence too. But this technology has changed over time and its fancy new name really reflects the advent of data inundation that every other software tool is experiencing. Location intelligence is doing a lot more these days.

With location intelligence, users can combine geographical data with just about any other kind of data – whether it be data about the physical characteristics of the geographic region itself or data about the people who live or work there and their behavior. The combination of all this data can be used to improve insight so you can make better decisions.

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Should You Use Images on Your Dashboard? Here’s How to Find Out

To use images or not to use images? THAT is the question (well, one question) for dashboard developers. When is it a good time to use graphs, photos or illustrations and when should you just present the data in its own numerical glory?

As with most forms of communication, the answer is: it depends. There are three things you should consider as you decide whether or not to use dashboard images:

  • Know your audience and how they process information
  • Understand the technical level of your users
  • Determine what type of data will be communicated

Knowing these three things will help you decide whether it is worth the effort to include imagery. Let’s examine each in some more detail.

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How to Use Hierarchy of Information to Simplify Your Dashboard

Companies invest a lot of money in business intelligence; as a result, you expect to receive information in an easy-to-view and intuitive format that can help you make better business decisions.

However, there are times you might feel frustrated when your BI tool’s dashboard is not delivering adequate information. What’s the problem? The issue may lie in the hierarchy of information (or lack thereof) provided by your dashboard.

Hierarchy of information determines the best way to display information on a dashboard.

  • Top level:

    Displayed information should be broad and generalized.

  • Consecutive levels:

    Should contain more detailed and specific information.

This framework can be used to help you visualize how data is contained in layers as you “dives into your data,” but it can also help explain how you see information on a single page or dashboard.

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