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.
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
There are several benefits associated with using dashboards in a variety of use cases. What are some of them?
The purpose of dashboards is to avoid having to go through vast amounts of raw data, and analyzing it for weeks over and over again before you can get a clear understanding of the figures.
In business, digital dashboards are used to make informed and faster decisions. In this context, the quality and effectiveness of a dashboard can have a significant impact on a workers’ productivity, quality of decisions, and hence the businesses she is working in. Anything that negatively affects the speed in which information can be processed, affects a worker’s productivity, and hence the financial health of an organization.
Poorly designed dashboards can cost companies large amounts of money. As designers we need to understand how we can support the limitations of human visual perception when we condense large amounts of data into a small area, displayed on a dashboard. The meaning of these large amounts of quantitative and qualitative data should not get lost in translation. There is no technology that can do this, it takes a designer (and sometimes also subject matter experts) to define how the information should be displayed so it can be interpreted correctly by its intended readers.
Successful dashboard design is based on an understanding of visual perception and human cognition.
Because technology advances so fast, people also expect that they can be more productive and get more things done in less time. The design challenge however is that knowledge and information keeps on increasing. In fact it doubles about every five years. Simultaneously information is becoming more abstract and increases in complexity. This is where information visualization comes in.