There are many ways to approach dashboard layout and dashboard design, but no matter your strategy, one thing is paramount: a dashboard should communicate the story of your data. While business questions can be complicated, dashboards are clean, informative, and reliable. This allows for rapid understanding of your data, including trends, outliers, successes, and issues.
Regardless of which dashboard software you use (Tableau, Qlik View, Qlik Sense, Power BI, etc.), your dashboard should be constructed using a fixed layout. This is made up of four elements (navigation, filters, KPIs, and charts) that allow users to quickly determine a few key things:
• if an action is needed
• how to get more information
• why the action is required
These four elements can be customized as needed and should stay consistent across navigation panes of the dashboard.
The user journey
As the user wants to understand their data, the fixed layout dashboard serves as a user journey map. Depending on persona, questions drive the user across the dashboard toward taking action. To make this even easier, dashboards can be built to highlight related material in bright colors whenever certain criteria are met.
Information highlighted on a business dashboard example.
Question: What is happening in my business/project?
User Response: Open the dashboard and select a tab from the horizontal navigation pane.
User Question: What area do I need to focus on?
User Response: Scan KPIs on the second tier to identify any problem areas.
User Question: Are there any issues?
User Response: Pinpoint related data in charts.
User Question: What more do we know about this issue?
User Response: Draw conclusions based on these connected panels.
User Question: What action(s) can we take in response to this situation?
User Response: Review actions associated with charts and brainstorm further steps to take based on dashboard data.
Let’s look at an example of how this data storytelling works.
In the diagram above, we can see the projected revenue for the week is below target. This is indicated by the orange colored KPI. Scanning to the main dashboard area for more orange lands us on the inventory chart. Here we can see the stock count is only 200, but we have projected sales of 5,000 units.
Since our dashboard design process tied an action to each chart, we know what to do with this data story: Call a specific number and ask about inventory status. Do we need to ship more units or is the inventory count simply inaccurate? Either way, we have to call to find out.
Even in this simple dashboard example, you can see how a basic data narrative can lead to powerful change. We provide a variety of resources regarding dashboard design processes, training, analytics, and more.
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