Effective dashboards form the backbone of a powerful business intelligence strategy, as well as the essential entry point in becoming an analytics-driven organization. Dashboards support fast and effective decision-making, provide valuable insight into key performance indicators, and make reporting simple and fast.
Developing effective dashboards begins with engaging stakeholders at every level—users, executives, and the design team—and planning around how and why stakeholders will use the dashboards. Providing the right content to serve those needs is essential to success.
In addition to providing the right content, organizations must consider how to visualize the information. Whether a solution is developed in Excel, WebWORQ, IBM Cognos TM1 Web, Planning Analytics Workspace, Cognos BI or another tool, dashboards also must provide a user-friendly, intuitive interface, in order to encourage user adoption. Here are three “little” guidelines that will make a big difference in the usability of your dashboards.
Navigation is Key to Success
Many dashboard design teams make the mistake of creating a linear, hard-wired navigation pathway. While this approach feels logical and rational in theory, it doesn’t mirror how most people naturally interact with information. One effective way to create intuitive navigation paths is to pull your web design team in on the project—especially anyone whose expertise encompasses user experience (UX) design. Good web designers understand how people interact with information on their various devices. That same expertise translates well to user-friendly dashboards.
Pay this “little” detail close attention, because it will have a direct impact on the adoption and ultimate success of your total dashboard initiative.
Selectors: Don’t Make this Common Mistake
Selectors are one of the primary ways that users interact with the information in your dashboards. Providing clear, simple choices is critical to guiding them through the data. Many dashboard designers make the mistake of thinking that they need to give users every possible choice, but unfortunately that approach results in information overload and confusion.
Instead of drop-downs and hover-overs with every possible option, use check boxes, radio buttons, and sliders that provide only the most commonly used and important options. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this will improve user adoption and reduce special report and dashboard support requests.
Decide which options to provide by considering what the audience already knows, and what they need to know. If they don’t automatically recognize all of the possible fields, then providing access to those fields won’t give them information they need. If they don’t need to access information by product groups, regions, or departments, then don’t provide those options either. Focus on the options they will actually use. This step is especially important on summary pages, saving the detailed choices for the supporting detail reports.
Optimizing Size in a Multi-Platform World
Most users in any given organization now interact on a daily basis with a dizzying array of desktop systems, laptops, iPads, and miscellaneous mobile devices. Optimizing the sizing and appearance of graphs and reports to look perfect everywhere is a losing battle.
And yet, if users can’t see what they want to see and interact with the information in a useful way, they will grow frustrated and stop using the dashboard.
To address this problem, start by determining on which devices the most frequent users are most likely to access the dashboards. Optimize for that screen size and resolution, then clearly publish that information on the dashboard itself. Provide users with instructions, right inside the dashboard, for conforming to the recommended screen resolution. That way, instead of becoming frustrated and thinking that the dashboard is badly designed, they’ll see immediately how to fix the problem for themselves.
Don’t let your organization be among the 70% whose dashboard initiatives fail.