OracleBIBlog Search

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dashboard Design Tips

When designing a set of dashboards, I like to include an “at-a-glance” or summary page as the first dashboard a user sees when they log on each day. This page should include a condensed version of the user’s key performance indicators as well as any generated alerts. Users should then have the option of drilling down or to additional detailed reporting. In order to encourage usage of the dashboards, embed your dashboards as a link within the corporate portal so users have one click access to the information

Consider the page placement of your key performing metrics based on web page eye movement. The diagram below shows how the human eye views a web page, based on level of priority. Place the most important elements for viewing in the upper left hand corner and the least important in the lower right corner to mimic the way the eye scans a page.

Some additional design guidelines are:

  • Ideally, the dashboard should fit on one page. Try to avoid any scrolling from left to right.
  • The best screen size for the dashboard window is 1024 x 768.

  • The ability to drill is critical to the success of your dashboards. Users need to know that the underlying data is going to be available to them. Some projects I’ve worked on have been very successful when allowing the users to drill not only to the detailed data but also back to the source transactional systems.
  • Introduce competition by using Top 10 reports, conditional formatting, etc.
  • Avoid decorative dashboard elements cluttering the screen like dials, gauges, excessive colors and images. Your dashboard can still be visually interesting while following standards.
  • Speaking of standards, it’s important that dashboard standards and best practices be defined early in the design process. This ensures consistency among various groups within your organization. I recently worked on a project where OBIEE had been in place for over a year, being used by a few departments. Additional teams were being brought on board and new development had already started. There were no design guidelines in place and the new dashboards were completely different among each of the teams. One of our exercises was to look at what was in production today and identify standards to be used in future development. This also caused a little rework on the production dashboards to meet the requirements of all teams, resulting in a consistent approach for the organization as a whole.

As a little bonus, I’ve included a few tips from Dashboard expert Stephen Few:

Characteristics of A Well-Designed Dashboard

  • Exceptionally Well Organized
  • Condensed, Primarily in the form or Summaries and Exceptions
  • Specific to and Customized for the Dashboard’s Audience and Objectives
  • Displayed Using Concise and Other Small Media that Communicates the Data and Its Messages in the Clearest and Most Direct Way Possible

Common Mistakes in Dashboard Design

  • Exceeding the Boundaries of a Single Screen
  • Supplying Inadequate Context for the Data
  • Displaying Excessive Detail or Precision
  • Arranging the Data Poorly
  • Highlighting Important Data Ineffectively or Not at All
  • Cluttering the Display with Useless Decoration
  • Misusing or Overusing Color
  • Designing an Unattractive Visual Display