Designing Dashboards

How to Fail Fast at Dashboard Design

By Michelle Gardner
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It doesn’t matter how gorgeous your dashboards and reports are: If they don’t meet your users’ needs, they’ll never be seen.

If you want to give users a dashboard that’s not only beautiful, but also effective and useful in their lives, you should start with an iterative feedback process. Your audience may not always know exactly what they want to see or how they want to see it, so it can be extremely beneficial to give them something to say “no” or “yes” to and then iterate from there.

wireframe2Many companies use wireframes to vet their user’s needs. Before creating an entire dashboard, developers will start with a wireframe—or a rough outline of what content will appear and where it will go—and then show that wireframe to the end users for feedback. Smart developers will do this a few times in order to get a few rounds of feedback before creating the full dashboard.

The problem with wireframes is that they’re static images that represent a flat image of the page and user experience. They’re not ideal for conveying dynamic interactions with content on that page. For many users, they can also be difficult to understand—leaving a lot of room for error in the development process. It’s easy for users to misunderstand exactly how the content will perform during the review process, and when they finally see it after weeks (or months!) of development work, they may be disappointed.

The Shift from Wireframes to Rapid Prototyping
This is where rapid prototyping comes in. With rapid prototyping, organizations quickly whip up a lightweight, usable dashboard that users can interact with and add their feedback. Rapid prototyping dashboards allows users to get a much better feel for the end result and can provide more valuable feedback.

Rapid prototyping also allows companies to fail fast. When you’re able to create a new dashboard in a matter of hours, you can quickly see if that particular approach will or won’t work for your users—and iterate from there. Rapid prototyping allows developers to play around with things that work, quickly adjust anything that doesn’t, and easily pivot and shift with changing business needs and user demands.

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“Wireframes were not giving us the feedback we expected,” says Kiel Knisely, Product Engineer at Avail Technologies, a software provider for public transit systems. “With wireframes, people would nod their heads, say it looks good, but then they’d see the final product and say, ‘That’s not really what I wanted.’ Now we’ll throw something quickly together in Logi and ask, ‘Is this what you want?’ It’s not much longer to do that than to create a wireframe, and it’s definitely made life easier.”

Companies like Avail are realizing the benefits of using rapid prototyping to get something in front of the user quickly. “Before, when it was a wireframe, it didn’t look real,” said Knisely. “Now we can make it look real and get something out there in an hour or two hours. That’s the biggest benefit.”


Originally published July 8, 2016; updated on August 9th, 2017

About the Author

Michelle Gardner is the Director of Corporate Marketing & Communications at Logi Analytics. She has over a decade of experience writing and editing content, with a specialty in software and technology.