5 Tips for Designing Eye-Catching Data Dashboards

Data Science

5 Tips to Dashboard Your Data Efficiently & Effectively

If you’ve ever sat through a marketing presentation, you’ve probably laid eyes on some compelling visualizations of performance data. These stunning visuals are often used to underscore a particular takeaway.

“Traffic is up.” “We’re resonating with the right demographic.” “We’re underperforming in Idaho.”

No matter the underlying message, the way in which you present data can mean the difference between an engaged board room and a series of stifled yawns. When artfully constructed, an interactive dashboard offers an effective solution for conveying vital information while keeping your audience’s attention.

If you’re looking to try your hand at building a data dashboard, you’ll need to consider form and function in addition to your audience and subject matter. And with interactive elements, there are a lot of moving pieces to consider – sometimes quite literally. Here’s a few tips to keep in mind when construct dashboards.

1. Know your audience!

The composition of your audience should dictate the level of detail and information that will be needed in your dashboard. For instance, C-level executives may be more interested in higher level metrics than the Marketing department, and the latter may require more detail around specific initiatives.

Knowing your audience’s key performance indicators (KPIs), and which metrics are most important, is a great starting point. Stick with what is essential, and avoid adding data that isn’t valued by your audience. You’ll lose the room right away if you overwhelm them with unnecessary information.

2. Make it obvious and easy to understand.

One of your dashboard’s primary goals should be to answer your client’s questions before they are asked. If your dashboard is difficult to interpret without lengthy explanations, it may be too complicated.

Use concise titles for charts and tables. This not only helps your audience digest the material efficiently but also minimizes the number of extraneous meetings needed to clarify the data conveyed.

You should also take advantage of colors, shapes, and sizes to draw your audience’s eyes to important information. This method can also be used to visually distinguish similar looking values. Don’t forget to include a legend that maps colors to their values as a point of reference for your audience.

3. Placement is important.

Placement dictates the overall flow of your dashboard. You want to ensure that your most vital data points are easy to find.

Include the most important pieces of the dashboard in prominent sections up to top, since this area serves as your client’s first “point of contact” with any underlying data. For multiple audiences with different focuses, consider adding a table of contents so each group can quickly jump ahead to their areas of interest.

For stronger organization, group related parts of the dashboard together by section. For example, you may have one area for main KPI scorecards, another with traffic source-specific information, and another section highlighting geographic information. Group structures help clients quickly digest the details and keep your table of contents concise.

4. Take advantage of filters.

Filters will give your audience the opportunity to answer some questions on their own. This will take your dashboard from a static view to an interactive experience, creating a more user-friendly experience overall. A date range filter is always a good place to start.

Data filters give your audience the option to drill down on certain KPIs. Does the marketing team often ask about how a specific campaign is running? A data filter gives them the on-demand freedom to filter by any campaign values in which they’re interested.

5. Add a glossary page.

Having a glossary that defines metrics and dimensions used in the dashboard will help avoid any misinterpretation of data. This will become even more important when switching from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

This may seem like a skippable step, but keep in mind that your audience may not be as familiar with industry jargon as you are. There may be vital details that you need your audience to grasp, but without a strong glossary they may miss that information.

Final Thoughts on Data & Storytelling

The person building the dashboard is often more familiar with its data than the audience. It’s up to you to take your available data sources and shape them into a format that clearly tells the underlying story. For effective storytelling, you may need to seek some outside viewpoints.

If your colleagues are confused by your data presentation, odds are your clients will be too. Take additional time for internal review, and collect input from different teams. Evaluating your dashboard in this way helps confirm that the information is useful, impactful, and digestible across the board.

With each dashboard we create, we uncover fresh perspectives that help us build each new iteration better than the last. Designing dashboards to convey specific insights can be a challenge, but with some thoughtful organization you can use your data to tell a compelling story with greater clarity.

Have any questions about data visualization? Would you like to learn more about how BrainDo can help with building your dashboard? Contact the BrainDo team here for more information.

Meet the Author

Dillon Hellinger

Dillon Hellinger

Analytics Engineering, Data Science

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