Designing Dashboards

Dashboard Design Best Practices
for Non-Designers

By Yen Dinh
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If you’re like most people, when faced with a text-heavy document, you may end up skimming the content or not reading it at all. The same holds true for analytics dashboards: If you include too much content or present that content in an overly complex design, your end users may not bother using your analytics at all. Content is key—but sometimes less is more.

>> Read All the Tips in “17 Dashboard Design Tips for Non-Designers” <<

How do you present the right information in the right way? You need to simplify what you show and how you show it. Follow these four dashboard design best practices to enhance your analytics user experience today:

#1: Show the relevant information.

Consider the information your end users truly need, and reduce what you show on your dashboard down to a few key ideas. If you’re designing a dashboard for a sales team, for example, don’t include visualizations on marketing campaign channels. Placing sales and marketing metrics on the same page will only confuse users with information they don’t really need.

#2: Choose the right visualizations for your data.

When designing dashboards, application teams can choose from a variety of different chart and graph types to display data. But not all data visualizations will work for every dataset.

Here are some common data visualization types and the best datasets for each:

  • Tabular formats are best used when exact numbers must be known. Numbers are presented in rows and columns, and may contain summary information. This format is not conducive to finding trends or comparing sets of data. Tabular charts make it hard to analyze sets of numbers, and the presentation becomes unwieldy with larger datasets.
  • Line charts are best to show continuous data and trends over time. Line charts are set against a common scale; you can also add a trend line or goal line to show performance against a set benchmark.
  • Bar charts are best used when showing comparisons between categories. The bars can be plotted either horizontally or vertically. Horizontal bar charts often show rank comparisons, usually with the largest bar on top. Vertical bar charts or column charts are often used to show multiple dimensions on a chart or a cross-tabular chart.
  • Pie charts are best used to compare a percentage of the whole. Pie charts make it easy to understand the relative importance of values, but when there are more than five sections it can become difficult to compare the results.

#3: Hide some content.

Every piece of information doesn’t need to appear on your dashboard all at once. Don’t be afraid to let users drill down into some data points. Utilize icons, pop-up windows, sliding trays, and other expandable areas to show longer blocks of text as users dive deeper, instead of displaying everything from the main page. Selectively showing dashboard content has the added bonus of speeding up load times—and as any developer knows, poor performance is a killer for application engagement.

#4: Use iconography.

Content isn’t limited to data and charts. To support a great user experience, application teams are using icons in the navigation panes and in reports. Icons are typically small graphic images, sometimes accompanied by a one- or two-word description. They help users easily navigate analytics, understand exactly what they’re looking at, and quickly discern what action to take—enabling users to work more efficiently.

You don’t have to create icons from scratch. Graphics libraries such as Font Awesome make it easy to add scalable vector graphics (SVG) to your application. Font Awesome is a free font and CSS framework full of SVG icons that you can scale and customize—so if you resize them, they don’t lose or stretch pixels and you won’t see a change in picture quality.

For more design tips, check out our ebook: The Art of Dashboard Design: 7 Fundamentals to Master

Originally published July 3, 2019; updated on July 5th, 2019

About the Author

Yen Dinh is a content marketing coordinator at Logi Analytics. She has more than five years of experience writing content and is passionate about helping audiences stay updated on emerging technologies.