The most common mistakes when designing dashboards

A while ago we wrote an article about the benefits of using a dashboard. Many organisations use dashboards to create visualised overviews of their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). But, how do you design a dashboard that shows results in the most efficient way?

The contents of a dashboard

With a dashboard, you should be able to see and interpret the status of a variable at a glance. Instead of a block of text, it shows the analysed information in graphs or figures. This means that dashboards should save the user time in understanding results by showing the most relevant information.1 The aim is to see in which areas the organisation is doing well and which areas need more attention.

However, it often happens that the use of dashboards is made much more difficult for users than it should be, which can lead to problems. Below are the most common mistakes that are made when setting up a dashboard and how they can be solved.

Want to put as much information on one page as possible

It goes without saying that once you start working with dashboards, you want to get everything out of them. This often means that you tend to show all elements that have been measured (within the organisation) at once. The reason for this would be that it immediately gives a complete picture of the organisation. Unfortunately, it is often forgotten that not all parties within the organisation benefit from seeing the same data. This abundance of data can lead to misleading interpretations of the required results.2

To counteract this, you can choose a filter option per role. This way, everyone can select what is relevant for them without seeing extra data that is not relevant. This ensures that results can be looked at more efficiently, but also that conclusions can be assessed more quickly. If there are not many different roles in an organisation, creating different tabs with each their own topic can also lead to the desired goal.

Using too many colours

This applies to all visualisations. Organisations often tend to use many colours to make the environment look as beautiful and attractive as possible. However, this can cause more confusion and be perceived as overwhelming.

So choose a limited number of standard colours and use them consistently. Once you use red to show a negative measurement result, you obviously do not use the same colour to show a positive measurement result at another point. You can also find valuable information on this subject on the Internet. Such as colours used for a specific purpose in a dashboard and colour combinations which have been proven to go well together.

Selecting arbitrary graphics

Charts can easily be misused. It is crucial that the correct chart is used when conveying information.3 The use of an incorrect graph may result in unreadable information or information that is not correctly interpreted. Both consequences can contribute negatively to drawing the correct conclusions. If an element is shown in a line chart, it is seen as a trend of time. Thus, valuable information may be displayed incorrectly and wrong decisions may be made.

Immerse yourself in the different types of graphs and find out which graph is best for certain types of information. Is it a trend over time? Is it about proportions? Or do you want to compare elements? Make sure you know exactly what kind of result of an element you want to show and base your choice for a chart on that.

Not studying the users of the dashboard

Some designers assume that every user has the same analytical qualities. This can lead to users facing more challenges than necessary. Users may not know where the relevant information is and may find it too confusing.

Check to what extent the users are familiar with (among other things) dashboard programmes and their knowledge of graphs and statistics.4 The ultimate goal of the dashboard is to create an environment for the users that is time-saving, not time-consuming by having to learn new skills.

The added value of a dashboard lies in creating an easy environment for users, who can find the desired information at a glance. Creativity is not always important in such an environment. If it is a simple, but well-functioning dashboard, your users will benefit more from it than if it looks attractive but is difficult to use.

Sources

  1. Justinmind. (s.d.). Dashboard design: Best practices and examples. Consulted from https://www.justinmind.com/blog/dashboard-design-best-practices-ux-ui/
  2. Alhamadi, M. (2020). Challenges, strategies and adaptations on interactive dashboards. Proceedings of the 28th ACM Conference on User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization. doi: 10.1145/3340631.3398678
  3. Durcevic, S. (2020, September 9). 20 dashboard design principles & best practices to enhance your data analysis. Retrieved from https://www.datapine.com/blog/dashboard-design-principles-and-best-practices/
  4. Ouwehand, G. (s.d.). In 5 stappen naar het perfect dashboard. Retrieved from https://www.axians.nl/business-analytics/blog/in-5-stappen-naar-het-perfecte-dashboard/

7 October 2021

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