3 Creative Dashboard Designs (And Why They Work!)

Introduction to Business Intelligence

 

Business intelligence software – like Dundas BI – helps software vendors and enterprises alike strike while the iron’s hot. By transforming raw data into actionable insights in the form of dashboards, reports and visual data analytics, businesses are able to more effectively analyze their data, and make critical business decisions faster.

Dashboards in particular, are a type of output/view that is in incredibly high demand. From Marketing, to Operations, to Sales, and everything in between, Dashboards present users with a simple, succinct view, allowing them to explore, analyze, monitor and act on their data. The definition of what a dashboard actually is has varied over time, but one of the more agreed-upon statements comes from Stephen Few:

“A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives that has been consolidated on a single computer screen so it can be monitored at a glance.”

As for what I believe – and in much simpler terms than Mr. Few – I’m content with simply defining a dashboard as a preview of whatever information is deemed most critical for the user who’s looking at it. The user should be able to see, at-a-glance, useful data visualizations and analytics that show trends, updates, KPIs, metrics and other key data points that will allow them to monitor the status of some process or department. Dashboards in business intelligence after all, are direct derivatives of dashboards in cars, which are used for the same purpose. You’d never fix your car using its dashboard, but you’d certainly look to it first to understand the health of your vehicle and to understand its status at that particular time.

Now that we’re all clear on how to define a dashboard – don’t worry, I won’t judge if you use a different definition – let’s dig into the meaty stuff – most importantly, what a good dashboard is comprised of and how you can design better dashboards. We’ll then share a few examples of creative dashboard designs and discuss why they work so well!

And if you’re not interested in my little dashboard ‘pedagogy’, feel free to skip straight to our examples of creative dashboard designs!

 

What is a good dashboard comprised of?

There are a lot of business intelligence and data analytics vendors who think they’ve got the best dashboards on the market and that they know what makes up a good dashboard. I’m here to set the record straight and tell you that they are wrong! And why are they wrong, you ask? Because we here at Dundas make the best dashboards – no doubt about it! In the not-quite-accurate words of J.K. Simmons and Farmers Insurance:

“Dundas knows a thing or two (about dashboards), because they’ve won an award or two.”

Dundas is nothing, if not well-known for our dashboards. Not to toot our own horn or anything (toot toot!), but we recently cleaned up big in BARC’s The BI & Analytics Survey 21. In fact, our performance in the ‘Dashboards’ category prompted BARC’s analysts to proclaim:

“Dashboards and interactive analytics applications are Dundas’ dominant use case, revealing the vendor’s origins as a provider of specialized dashboard solutions.”

Now that you know we’re *ahem* the best Dashboarding solution around, how about I get into telling you what a good dashboard is comprised of? The best dashboards tend to share four common traits. More often than not, they:

Keep in mind that all dashboards are different, and that each serves a different purpose. There will always be unique requirements, limitations and goals, but what should always remain relevant are those four traits. Audit your existing dashboards to ensure these four characteristics are applied or keep them in mind when creating anew.

 

How can you design better dashboards?

A good dashboard is the culmination of complex business intelligence processes, comprised of gathering myriad requirements, aggregating and cleaning data, defining and prioritizing metrics, and finally the design itself. There’s a lot of work that goes into designing a dashboard and having the high-level knowledge of what to apply will only get you so far. There comes a point in every dashboard designers journey where they need to make technical decisions based on their research.

From empathizing with your users and having a complete understanding of the tasks they’re hoping to complete, to ensuring the right KPIs and metrics are selected based on that understanding, to the types of data visualizations chosen to display said KPIs and metrics, to the layout and positioning of all elements on the dashboard, to the color scheme and UI guidelines… There are too many dashboard design principles to list, and were I to go into detail on even half of them, I’d be better off creating an eBook – hey, now there’s an idea…

What I will do, however, is provide a repeatable framework for how you can consistently design better dashboards

And remember, these steps are not law, merely guidelines to follow. They can further be broken down into very detailed specifics, such as…

… but without going into excessive detail, the above steps should be plenty for getting started. By now you should have more than a solid foundation on which to build your dashboards.

 

3 examples of creative dashboard designs (and why they work!)

I truly apologize for taking so long to get to what you’ve likely come here to see! This is the blog’s titular section, after all. I do, however, hope you’ve learned a little bit about dashboard design along the way, and can put some of your learnings into practice the next time you take to designing a dashb— nay, a piece of art that elevates your users’ ability to effectively communicate data insights.

Let’s get right into it! Here are 3 examples of creative dashboard designs that absolutely work:

STORE OPERATIONS DASHBOARD


RETAIL SALES PERFORMANCE DASHBOARD


CALL CENTER DASHBOARD


I’ve chosen to not detail individually why each dashboard is designed well – there’s simply too much overlap between all three – and quite frankly, you’d get tired of hearing me say the same things. Instead, I thought I’d outline some key design principles the dashboards as a whole follow.

Beyond following these three design principles, these dashboards are culminations of everything else we’ve discussed thus far in this article. They each have taken complex data and made it simple to understand. They each tell a clear and concise story and guide the reader from start to finish. They each have given meaning to raw data and are helping users make sense of it. And they each present the exact right amount of data – not too much, and certainly not too little.

If you’d like to see more well-designed, creative dashboard examples, check out Dundas’ samples page. We’ve got tons of great, interactive dashboards for your viewing pleasure.

Good dashboard design is as much a science as it is an art. And now that you understand what dashboards are, what good dashboards are comprised of, and how good dashboards are designed, there should be nothing stopping you from creating thoughtful – and more importantly, impactful – dashboards.

If you’d like to start building your own dashboards, I highly encourage you trial Dundas BI – free for 25 days.

 

About the Author

Jordan Zenko

Jordan Zenko is the Community & Content Manager at Dundas Data Visualization. As Dundas’ resident (and self-proclaimed) story-teller, he authors in-depth content that educates developers, analysts, and business users on the benefits of business intelligence.

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