What makes a great
Start with a clearly defined business question.
Any good dashboard starts with a clearly defined business question that establishes the specific purpose, scope, user, and audience of the dashboard.
The best dashboards display data that answers the business question in a clear, contextual format that is intuitive both for the user and the intended audience.
In this Analysis Factory dashboard, the business question is grasped at a glance: What are the usage trends for the London Bike Share program by calendar period and by geographic area?
In contrast, the dashboard below (not by Analysis Factory) is a tossed salad of metrics and indicators, including some of the same bike sharing data. But it's a challenge to find it!
Add intuitive, easy-to-use controls, combined with charts and graphs that illustrate the impact of each KPI.
Choose the metric
And the data is displayed in a graphic format most appropriate to each KPI:
A great dashboard should have controls that are easy to identify, controls that say
"Click here to change this."
The data visualization — the charts, graphs, and tables summarizing each metric — together must illustrate at a glance the business question that is being addressed in the dashboard.
Simplicity is the key. The dashboard above displays five different sales metrics, from 13 regions (including worldwide), over three different time periods in a clear, uncluttered layout. The charts and graphs are customized for each metric in the optimum format to identify trends.
In contrast, the dashboard below (not by Analysis Factory!) displays similar data in a layout that is less than clear. The pie chart is particularly misleading: it groups the small accounts in one huge slice of the pie consisting of over 50% of the total, then assigns duplicate colors to multiple accounts.
Provide consistent functionality and look-and-feel across platforms.
Designing executive dashboards that are equally effective on desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones is a challenge, to be sure. And in the era of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), it is almost impossible to know on what device a specific dashboard will be viewed.
A layout that is clear and intuitive on a laptop may be confusing or unreadable on a tablet or smartphone. One popular approach is to display only the top level summary of the business case, relying on drilldown to display the underlying data.