The do's and don'ts of dashboards

You've got data and you've got insights — now you're ready to share your findings with the world

You’re ready to create a dashboard.

A dashboard is your go-to tool for communicating insights about a particular set of data. But, to build a great dashboard—a truly informative and actionable dashboard—it takes more than just putting all of your insights onto a canvas. There are planning and design elements that must be deliberately accounted for in order to give a dashboard the most bang for your buck.

Here's where to start, what to include, and what to avoid:

DO experiment, iterate, and, most importantly, get feedback.

Have you ever worked intently on a dashboard, but when you showed it to someone, she asked what the data was for—or didn’t interact with the dashboard the way you intended?

As someone who built the dashboard, it seems obvious how the viewer should use the tool and what she should take away from it. But others don’t have your context.

Dashboards can take time to get just right, it’s often not a one-and-done process. Besides iterating to make it work for your needs, e.g. changing a color for emphasis, you also need to make sure your dashboard is useful to other users. Therefore, it is very important to get feedback from multiple people. Each person will have a different perspective that can help you develop that perfect dashboard.

After several rounds of iteration, the original dashboard was transformed to focus on KPIs and create a visual interface to replace the table.

DON'T overdesign.

It’s tempting to mimic an infographic seen in a magazine or website. However, think about the end goal of your dashboard. Are you trying to attract a large audience or quickly relay your latest finding to your CEO, manager, or colleague?

In business environments, your goal is to prioritize functionality over beauty: Simplicity is your friend. Straight-forward charts and basic color schemes can tell a poignant story. A dashboard that is easy to understand will get the message across quickly and help showcase your expertise. To ensure your audience can understand the data, adhere to visual best practices in your dashboards.

An infographic-influenced dashboard is eye-catching, but clean color palettes and a grid layout convey business data better.

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