A dashboard serves as a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve an objective. Because dashboards are heavily dependent on visuals, it’s important to recognize the weight it bears on the human brain. Emphasizing your message with a visual has been proven to increase retention rates from 1 in 5 people to 4 in 5 people.
We interviewed product experts to find out which common mistakes product teams make when designing dashboards and presenting data—and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: No Follow-Up
A lot of dashboards are very static things that don’t give users a next step to take. When a dashboard is integrated into the rest of the product correctly, there will be obvious calls to action. For example, if you have a dashboard showing server errors across a system, a great dashboard will give the user a very clear way to jump immediately to the biggest problem and fix it.
Mistake #2: No Drill-Down
Dashboards are, by their nature, high-level products. They generally summarize a lot of data and provide it at a glance. Unfortunately, a lot of dashboards don’t make it easy to investigate further. Maybe a marketing dashboard shows a sudden drop in email opens over the past four weeks—but does it also give the user the ability to drill down into the underlying information? This capability is essential so that users can investigate why that drop might have happened.
Mistake #3: No Context
Most dashboards are made up of aggregate numbers of things. Unfortunately, a lot of times, single numbers aren’t at all useful out of context. What does it mean if you sold 20 items yesterday? It depends a lot on how many items you sold the week before and the year before, and so on. Do 20 items represent a 10x increase? Or a 1,000x drop? To have a truly useful dashboard, you need to show the context behind the numbers. You need to show whether numbers are going up or down and, if possible, help the user understand why those things are happening.
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