Does Your Dashboard Suck?

10 common mistakes in Dashboard Design

1. Not thinking of the story telling

'What story do I want to tell?' is the number one question you have to ask yourself when creating a dashboard. Not thinking of the message you want to convey will ultimately result in an irrelevant assembling of data and misrepresentation of your company’s business. Creating a dashboard is like writing a book, your book.

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2. Exceeding the single screen view

The advantage of the dashboard lies in its ability to offer a single glance view of everything we need all at once. A dashboard that does not fit on a single screen can hinder that process in two ways – the user may not be inclined to scroll and view the entire dashboard and if they are so inclined their brain will not be able to retain the information that is not in front of them.

3. Displaying excessive detail

While a dashboard requires a good level of precision to make relevant decisions, a dashboard that displays numbers without rounding off or figures too far back in time suffers from the crime of excessive detail. The limited space on a dashboard does not allow for frivolous allocation of space and need to keep the user focused on the most important points.

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4. Choosing inappropriate display media

It is capital to know when to use a graph versus a table or some other display media. An inappropriate use of media can be a source of confusion, wrong use of space and poor design quality. Why use a pie chart  when a simple bar graph will always serve the purpose better?

5. Using poorly designed display media

Choosing the right display medium is one thing, choosing for a clear and efficient display design is another. Poorly designed displays can translate into un-viewable graphics, indistinguishable sections or poor use of color.

6. Arranging information poorly

A dashboard is a piece of prime property that needs to be maximised to the full of its potential. If the information is not arranged in a way that highlights what is important and follows the natural flow of the eye it leads to nothing more than an incomprehensible cluttered mess.

7. Highlighting important information ineffectively or not at all

It is crucial to know that not all of the information in a dashboard is of equal importance. The most critical information needs to be highlighted to catch the viewer’s eyes first. If all the information is given equal importance none of it will get the appropriate attention.

8. Visually cluttering the display

Underestimating the use of blank space is a common mistake in design. An over decorated, cluttered dashboard leads to nothing more than annoyance. While, the user gets tired the lack of clean space makes it difficult to focus on important elements.

9. Misusing color

Color is underrated as a tool of relaying information. When choosing the color: the family, the tone, the color difference, the symbolism holds, etc. need to be kept in mind. An example is using green and red to show positive and negative connotations without keeping in mind colorblindness.

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10. Encoding quantitative data inaccurately

A dashboard designer needs to possess a perfect understanding of how graphs read in the quantitative context. A misunderstanding will lead to a misrepresentation of the data, or worst to wrong decisions.

Note: All the pictorial examples here have been taken from Stephen Few's book - Information Dashboard Design.

Written By: Meghna Verma Meghna Verma is the Content Manager at Captain Dash.  You can reach her on Twitter @M3GV3RMa .