The ability to experience color can help us in a variety of ways. Colours convey meaning, connect, communicate functions, and help us to distinguish information.
Kurt Koffka, Max Wertheimer, and Wolfgang Kohler identified and described a number of perceptual biases. These biases help us identify groups of objects. There are several Gestalt principles that designers apply in their work, and six of them are of special interest in the context of desinging a dashboard.
Certain design features should be avoided to improve the meaningfulness of a dashboards. Here are some of the good and bad practices.
Designers use dashboards to represent raw data in a visual form that is helpful and supports immediate recognition and extraction of information that is most important.
Schemata are existing knowledge that users develop. These are developed through established norms that designers create. Users learn these schemata and recognize them as patterns. This has the advantage that users can skim a display faster and with less effort, as they are familiar with the schemata. Because this method requires less cognitive effort, users can focus their energy on displays and values that do need more attention.
There are several key considerations to make when identifyign the most effective and appropriate display for use in a dashboard.
Designers must answer these three essential questions:
- How big is the display?
- Who are the users or intended audience?
- Which display method communicates most effectively and without sacrificing meaningfulness?
In addition to these three essential questions, additional considerations have to be taken into account in order to inform the decision making in the design:
- What is the message the dashboard communicates?
- What data and how must the data be presented in order to communicate this message clearly?
- Should the data be presented for global information processing (images, graphics), or serial processing (text, numbers), or through a combination of both?
The data-ink ratio is a term and design principle coined by Edward Tufte. Tufte refers to the amount of ink required to print points that represent relevant and meaningful data in a graphical display. Data ink in itself is the visual information, the core that represents the data, and that cannot be erased without loss of meaning.
Human cognition has its limitations encompassing
- producing and understanding language
How can dashboard design support comparative analysis and promote an ‘aha’ experience associated with gaining insights?
- Design for a sudden and instantaneous experience
- Design for ease, i.e. the solution can be interpreted + understood without difficulty
- Design for a positive affect, so that understanding the information is gratifying
- Design for the feeling of being right, so that the insights don’t leave questions open, and don’t require further investigation
Rescue time uses a reporting dashboard that allows its customers to analyze how they spend their time, and make appropriate adjustments.