What is a captivating dashboard?
This question has eluded data visualization developers for quite some time. Should it be an eye-candy to be captivating? I am not talking about dashboards that are loaded with visuals but fail to convey the message. I am talking about the dashboards that are not only beautiful but also adhere to best practices and principles of data visualization. They’re clear, they filter out the noise, they adhere to best practices, they promote rapid analysis. Such dashboards are captivating dashboards.
So how do we create captivating dashboards. Here is a framework of steps that would help visualization experts in creating compelling and enriching visualizations.
- It always starts with a Discovery Session with the client. This discovery session’s all about asking the right questions from the get-go. What’s the purpose of the dashboard? Who’s the audience? What questions will it be used to answer? What are the key data points, etc.?
- The next step is a Data Discovery Session. That’s just you and the data. Play around with the data elements to analyze those key data points that were uncovered in the discovery session with the client.
- The third step is Choosing the Right Visual Displays. There’s a lot of rules of thumb here, like, for example, use a bar chart and use bullet charts to make comparisons easy. Use line graphs to show trends through time.
- The fourth step is Choosing Colors Wisely. This is very, very easy to abuse. It’s very easy to color everything bright and bold. The best rule of thumb here for using colors is to use natural colors for the overall palette and use the bright, bold colors for the data that requires your immediate attention.
- The second to the last step is Building the Dashboard. Bring out the visuals you have chosen in step 3 and tie them together on a dashboard to build a story. Use actions to improve the overall functionality of the dashboard. Start with the most important metrics at the top of the screen and drill down to more deeper analysis.
- Last, but certainly not the least, is Test. Test your dashboard to check if it covers everything that was uncovered in the discovery session.