Note: The following is a guest post by former Iron Viz champ John Mathis.
How complex was your last dashboard? I’ve seen many dashboards crammed full of every potentially useful piece of information. The result bombards users with an overwhelming array of different charts, graphs, and tables. This forces people to evaluate all of these competing components to determine which one to focus on when they open the dashboard.
Recent research into “decision fatigue” suggests the more decisions you make throughout the day, the harder each subsequent decision becomes, no matter how simple the decision. By avoiding unnecessary decisions, you free up brainpower for decisions that really matter.
In fact, Mark Zuckerberg recently cited this research when he was asked why he always wears the same gray T-shirt and black hoodie. That’s one less decision.
Turning back toward dashboard design, let’s see how we can help people make one less decision.
Should I continue reading this blog post? Let’s make that decision easy: Yes!
People access your dashboard to inform a decision. You want to make sure they have the information they need to make that decision. At the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm them with all potential information. So where does the balance lie? The goal is to provide the information only when the user needs it, thus information on demand.
When building a dashboard, focus on the most critical piece of information. It should be paramount in your design and obvious at first glance. Second, think about what other pieces of information provide valuable context or enrich that information. Lastly, consider tertiary pieces of information that may provide additional insights but are only needed to dig deeper.
Now let’s put the idea into practice. Here is a visualization that exemplifies these points:
Let’s break down how this dashboard serves up information on demand.