Laying out your embedded dashboards may seem simple. After all, it’s just a handful of charts and graphs, right? However, determining where to put every element of your embedded analytics is an important undertaking that can make or break the success of your dashboards.
You need to organize content in a way that clearly conveys the information you want to share. “The look and feel of the embedded analytics solution can directly impact the impression of the overall enterprise application and customer experience,” writes Gartner in their report, 5 Best Practices for Choosing an Embedded Analytics Platform Provider.
Consider these four tips for laying out your content in a format that is engaging easy to understand.
#1: Start with a wireframe.
Don’t just dive in and start laying out your data in the dashboard. Use sketches and mockups to plan your dashboard UI and give the final dashboard a clear, organized look and feel. A wireframe also reduces the number of iterative cycles you’ll have to go through as you refine your dashboard or report.
You can create a wireframe the analog way, with pencil and paper or on a dry erase board. Or you can use a digital wireframe tool such as Balsamiq (our top choice), Axure, SwordSoft, or Adobe Illustrator. The wireframe shown here was created in 60 seconds in Balsamiq, a rapid web application mockup tool that lets you build wireframes quickly.
#2: Consider element sizes.
For the most part, your embedded dashboards and reports should stick to uniform sizing to reduce distractions. However, uniform sizing doesn’t mean every single element should be the same size. Use size and position strategically to create a visual hierarchy and highlight important information. For instance, if a dashboard or report contains eight charts, but one of those visualizations is more important for most of your audience than the others, consider placing it up front in a larger size than the others.
#3: Use a grid.
Starting with a grid layout may seem like cheating, but in fact grids provide a natural visual framework that helps end users make sense of information. Every dashboard should tell a story. As your users navigate the dashboard from the top down, they should see related information all in one place.
#4: Embrace white space.
Negative space (also called white space) is a crucial element of dashboard design. But it may seem paradoxical: How can you afford to leave space blank when you’re trying to convey lots of important information on one analytics report?
In reality, white space is important for every embedded dashboard. It increases readability and breaks up blocks of information. Adding padding between objects also makes the application easier to use on small screens as your dashboard is sized down for mobile devices. CSS properties such as margin and padding can even accentuate an element’s importance. In a dashboard, for instance, surrounding a particular metric or chart with more negative space makes it stand out to the user.