Visual Highlighting: Information Visualization

While its best practice to display the most important information in the top left corner within a dashboard and provide users with an overview, the relative importance of this information may change over time. This may lead to the conclusion that we as designers should move the information in a different location, which is not what we should be doing.


The Importance of Location

There are two major reasons why we should not change the location of fluctuating information of a display on a dashboard:

  1. It is very difficult to design for moving targets, because as designers we cannot know and predict when certain information is of greater importance to a given person at a time.
  2. Readers become accustomed to the location of specific information and data sets, and their relative position within the dashboard. Moving things constantly around slows down users, confuses them, and interrupts their workflow. This is unthinkable and completely misses the point of dashboard that aim at saving time and enabling users to make quick and informed decisions.

Dashboard designs can contend for example by providing users shifting intentions by taking advantage of the generation effect. This is achieved by providing users with the ability to customise their own dashboard.

Another technique to employ is the addition of marks, such as asterisks, or other eye catching shapes, or changes in color strength or color saturation. Marks and colors can also be combined, which is a useful method for dynamically changing information. While very effective, this method should be used sparingly, and only in most important cases.

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