Dashboard design process: Part 1

Dashboard design process: Part 1




A business dashboard is a living thing that evolves with the needs of its users, as well as the availability and quality of the data used to create it. To ensure your dashboard can provide actionable business intelligence and never becomes irrelevant, we have developed the Enterprise Dashboard Design Process, which:


• Reduces risk. Our process increases awareness about your data and data literacy, user expectations, and potential roadblocks, allowing you to address issues early and avoid costly and time-consuming fixes farther down the line.

• Educates. Because our process emphasizes collaboration, important stakeholders from across your organization are actively involved everywhere that they need to be. This builds ensures dashboards are aligned to business value and builds user trust, which is easy to lose and hard to regain.

• Provides clarity. As you evaluate data, create personas, and define goals, you’ll gain a clearer understanding of the state of your business—and what to do with these insights.

• Spurs action. With a powerful of business dashboard at your fingertips, taking action will be easier than ever. Simple visuals and digestible dashboard metrics will highlight where you should focus your time and energy and ultimately result in behavioral change.


What is the Enterprise Dashboard Design Process?


On a high level, our process is a six-step analytics exercise that involves careful research, thorough ideation, and deliberate design. The result is a custom dashboard tailored to your business, your data, and your goals. The process works for any industry and can be adapted to fit your needs. In this two-part series, I’ll discuss the steps involved:


1. Know your users and stakeholders

2. Understand your data

3. Wireframe the end vision

4. Build and apply best practices

5. Drive adoption

6. Repeat for the living dashboard


Let's get started!


1. Know your users and stakeholders


For a dashboard to serve the needs of your business and your end users, you’ll need to talk to anyone that can or will be involved. Try to get a balanced representation from each of the following groups:


• Leadership and business owners

• End users

• Custodians of your data

• Dashboard developers


Next, using the questions below as a guideline, interview your stakeholders. Their answers will help you clarify objectives, reduce risks, and gain valuable information about potential roadblocks:


• What is your role and what do you do day to day?

• What are your objectives and goals?

• How can this dashboard make your life easier?

• How do you currently access this data?

• What are your current challenges in accessing this data?

• What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) do you currently use?

• What KPIs would you like to see?



2. Understand your data


Without a thorough understanding of your source material, you can’t get very far. In data analytics, it’s important for you to understand your data, both at a high level and in detail. The more in-depth you get, the better, but even general information like what tables and columns are available is important. Understanding data quality is also recommended, but that can be tackled later if necessary. Regardless of what level you want to understand, you’ll need to speak with someone who works closely with the data and have them provide as much detail as possible. At the end of your conversation, you should:


• Understand what type(s) of data exist. Dashboards work with structured data—that is, data that is already organized into tables, columns, and rows—but it’s good to be aware of what else is out there that could inform decision-making.

• Collect the data. Get the database schema, as well as the schemas of any other data sources.

• Examine the data. Run through which columns have data of high enough quality for the first iteration of the dashboard. This is subjective, but the data should be robust enough to build confidence in anyone seeing it. A dashboard with incorrect or incomplete information isn’t very convincing.

• Improve the data as needed. Come up with a plan to improve any lower-quality data so it can be added to later iterations of the dashboard.


3. Wireframe the end vision


Gather your team

The next step in our process is to workshop your dashboard and begin the design process. To avoid having to redo any work or rehash any topics, it is critical to involve as many users and stakeholders as possible in this step. Together, you can agree on the overall purpose of the dashboard and brainstorm a comprehensive list of obstacles and risks.


Create personas and questions

The first phase of designing your dashboard revolves around personas, each of which represent a specific user group. You can leverage your work from Step 1 by merging some identities to create one to three primary personas. As you work, make note of what questions each persona might want answered, and note how thoroughly your current data is able to answer each question.


Translate the questions into visuals

Next comes the tricky process of visualizing each persona’s questions in chart form. Each chart should meet several criteria:

• What question does this chart answer?

• What action needs to be taken as a result of what we see on the chart?

• Is the data behind the chart sufficiently reliable?


Complete this process for all the questions your personas might have. With completed visuals in hand, you are ready to mock-up your dashboard.


Create a dashboard mockup

Before a developer can create a functional version of your dashboard, you’ll need to a provide a detailed mockup. Mocking up your dashboard is easiest using our Enterprise Dashboard Process kit. Whether you use that or choose to create by hand, you should focus on creating three types of panels: charts, filters, and KPIs. When put together, these become the content of your dashboard. Once your mockup is complete, you’re ready for the second part of our dashboard design process.



Continue to Dashboard Design Process Part 2



If you’d like to dive deeper and learn about dashboard design in person, we have a half-day dashboard workshop available. The output of the workshop is a series of dashboard wireframes aligned to personas, as well as a plan to finalize the wireframes.