Common Pitfalls in Dashboard Design

Posted Thu Nov 22, 2012 @ 8:22 AM

I ran across an excellent whitepaper recently.  It was published a few years ago, but since it has nothing to do with technology, its content is very relevant.

In an article titled Common Pitfalls in Dashboard Design, Stephen Few outlines 13 points to be mindful of when designing dashboards.  In his own words: "Knowing what to avoid isn’t everything, but it’s a good start".

The list of items to look out for is:

     1.     Exceeding the boundaries of a single screen
     2.     Supplying inadequate context for the data
     3.     Displaying excessive detail or precision
     4.     Expressing measures indirectly
     5.     Choosing inappropriate media of display
     6.     Introducing meaningless variety
     7.     Using poorly designed display media
     8.     Encoding quantitative data inaccurately
     9.     Arranging the data poorly
    10.    Ineffectively highlighting what’s important
    11.    Cluttering the screen with useless decoration
    12.    Misusing or overusing color
    13.    Designing an unappealing visual display

From my experience with ComponentArt's Professional Services team, I can concur that a lot of these issues are common, especially for people or organizations trying to visualize their data for the first time.

Experience tells me that the key is to know who your target audience is.  At the risk of sounding like a lazy middle manager trying to solving the problem without getting his hands dirty, I point you to another good article, Usable yet Useless: Why Every Business Needs Product Discovery.

Knowing your target audience, and what they need to see or what actions they need to perform will help you immensely with making the dashboard a success in its first iteration.  And if that wish list becomes too long, then the key is to prioritize properly - make the most important data easily visible and the most common actions or filters obvious and accessible with the least number of clicks.

The good news is that just working with ComponentArt's Data Visualization controls will help you eliminate some of the items in the list above.  And if you're still having trouble nailing the perfect look and feel, our Professional Services team can definitely help with advice.

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