Best Principle for Designing Dashboard

Abhi Chatterjee
12 min readFeb 8, 2024

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Designing a dashboard requires careful consideration and planning. A well-designed dashboard provides users with valuable insights and helps them make informed decisions. In this article, I will explore the best principle for designing a dashboard, focusing on user-centered design, data visualization and simplicity. By understanding these principles, you can create an intuitive and visually appealing dashboard that effectively communicates information, enhancing the overall user experience. Whether you are a designer, developer or someone interested in impactful dashboards, this article will provide valuable insights and practical tips. Let’s dive in and discover the best principle for designing a dashboard!

What is Dashboard?

A dashboard is a User Interface (UI) that displays relevant, actionable data as well as track stats and key performance indicators (KPIs).

They typically display data in the form of charts, graphs and other visual elements and allow users to interact with data in various ways, such as by filtering and drilling down into specific areas of interest.

Types of Dashboard

There are five main types of dashboards that are commonly used, although there are other variations as well. These five types are considered the major categories of dashboards.

Operational Dashboards

  • Operational dashboards are designed to provide users with real-time information about their current status within an application or system.
  • These dashboards focus on displaying critical and time-relevant data that is essential for users to make immediate decisions or take necessary actions.
  • They typically include key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that reflect the operational efficiency and performance of the system.
  • Operational dashboards often feature live updates and visualizations that allow users to monitor and track their progress in real-time.
  • The information displayed on operational dashboards is highly specific and tailored to the user’s role and responsibilities within the application or system.
  • These dashboards are commonly used in industries such as logistics, manufacturing, customer support and project management, where real-time data is crucial for efficient operations.
  • By providing users with instant access to critical information, operational dashboards enable them to stay informed, identify issues or bottlenecks, and make timely decisions to optimize their workflow and productivity.

Example

Google Analytics

Analytical Dashboards

  • Analytical dashboards are designed to present key data sets to the user, allowing them to analyze and gain insights from the data.
  • These dashboards focus on comparing current data against previous performance, enabling users to identify trends, patterns and anomalies.
  • They provide a comprehensive view of the data, allowing users to drill down into specific metrics and dimensions for deeper analysis.
  • Analytical dashboards often include interactive visualizations, such as charts, graphs and heatmaps, to help users understand complex data relationships.
  • These dashboards are commonly used by data analysts, business intelligence professionals and decision-makers who need to make data-driven decisions based on historical and comparative data.
  • The data presented on analytical dashboards is typically aggregated, summarized and organized in a way that facilitates meaningful analysis and interpretation.
  • By leveraging analytical dashboards, users can uncover valuable insights, identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions to drive business growth and optimize performance.

Example

Geckoboard

Strategic Dashboards

  • Strategic dashboards are designed to indicate performance against a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.
  • These dashboards provide a high-level overview of the organization’s performance, allowing stakeholders to assess progress towards strategic targets.
  • Strategic dashboards typically focus on long-term trends and goals, providing insights into the overall health and success of the organization.
  • They often include a combination of financial, operational and customer-related KPIs to provide a holistic view of performance.
  • Strategic dashboards may include visualizations such as scorecards, gauges and trend charts to effectively communicate performance against KPIs.
  • These dashboards are commonly used by executives, senior management and board members to monitor the organization’s strategic initiatives and make informed decisions.
  • By leveraging strategic dashboards, stakeholders can quickly assess performance, identify areas of improvement and align actions with the organization’s strategic direction to drive success.

Example

DataPine

Platform Dashboards

  • Platform dashboards are specifically designed to give users access to controls, tools and analytics related to their account on a social platform.
  • These dashboards provide users with a centralized hub where they can manage their account settings, preferences and privacy controls.
  • Platform dashboards often include features such as profile management, account security settings and notification preferences.
  • They also provide users with analytics and insights related to their social platform activity, such as engagement metrics, follower growth and content performance.
  • These dashboards enable users to monitor and optimize their presence on the social platform, allowing them to make data-driven decisions to enhance their online presence.
  • Platform dashboards may include features like scheduling posts, analyzing audience demographics and accessing advertising or promotional tools.
  • By leveraging platform dashboards, users can effectively manage their social platform account, track their performance and utilize the available tools and analytics to maximize their impact and engagement on the platform.

Example

Youtube Studio

Time-in-app Dashboards

  • Time-in-app dashboards are a popular trend in mobile apps that provide users with information about how much time they are spending in each app.
  • These dashboards aim to promote self-awareness and help users manage their digital well-being by providing insights into their app usage habits.
  • Time-in-app dashboards typically display statistics such as total time spent in the app, daily or weekly usage trends and comparisons to previous time periods.
  • They may also include features like setting app usage limits, setting reminders for breaks or providing recommendations for healthier app usage habits.
  • These dashboards often utilize visualizations, such as charts or graphs to present the data in a clear and easily understandable format.
  • Time-in-app dashboards are designed to empower users to make conscious decisions about their app usage, promoting a healthier and more balanced digital lifestyle.
  • By leveraging time-in-app dashboards, users can gain insights into their app usage patterns, set goals for reducing screen time and maintain a healthier relationship with their mobile devices.

Example

Netflix Dashboard

Principles and Best Practise

Consider your audience

Image source — https://www.activecampaign.com/blog/know-your-audience
  • When designing a dashboard, it is crucial to consider your audience and their specific needs, preferences and level of expertise.
  • Understand the goals and objectives of your audience to ensure that the dashboard provides relevant and meaningful information.
  • Conduct user research and gather feedback to gain insights into the expectations and requirements of your audience.
  • Tailor the design, layout and content of the dashboard to align with the knowledge and skill level of your audience.
  • Use language, terminology and visual elements that are familiar and easily understandable to your audience.
  • Prioritize the most important and relevant information for your audience, keeping the dashboard focused and clutter-free.
  • Ensure that the dashboard provides a seamless and intuitive user experience, allowing your audience to navigate and interact with the data effortlessly.
  • Regularly gather feedback and iterate on the dashboard design based on the evolving needs and preferences of your audience.
  • Continuously monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the dashboard in meeting the needs of your audience and make necessary improvements.
  • By considering your audience throughout the design process, you can create a dashboard that effectively communicates information and provides a valuable user experience.

Determine user goals

Image source — https://bootcamp.uxdesign.cc/user-goals-381b8c61f3dc
  • To create an effective dashboard, it is crucial to determine the goals and objectives of the users who will be interacting with it.
  • Conduct user research and gather insights to understand the specific goals and tasks that users want to accomplish through the dashboard.
  • Identify the key questions or problems that users need to address and the information they require to make informed decisions.
  • Consider the different user personas and their unique goals, roles and responsibilities within the organization.
  • Tailor the design and content of the dashboard to align with the user goals, ensuring that it provides relevant and actionable information.
  • Prioritize the data and metrics that are most important to users in achieving their goals and meeting their needs.
  • Provide intuitive navigation and interaction options that allow users to easily access the information they need to accomplish their goals.
  • Continuously gather user feedback and iterate on the dashboard design to ensure that it aligns with the evolving goals and requirements of the users.
  • Regularly evaluate the usability and effectiveness of the dashboard in helping users achieve their goals and make necessary improvements.
  • By determining user goals, you can design a dashboard that meets their specific needs, enhances their productivity and enables them to accomplish their objectives effectively.

Tell a story with your data

Image source — https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/how-to-tell-a-story-with-data
  • When designing a dashboard, aim to tell a compelling story with your data to engage and captivate your audience.
  • Structure the data in a logical and coherent manner that guides users through a narrative or flow.
  • Use visualizations, such as charts, graphs and infographics to present the data in a visually appealing and easily understandable format.
  • Ensure that the data visualizations are clear, concise and effectively communicate the intended message.
  • Use appropriate labeling, titles and annotations to provide context and highlight key insights or trends in the data.
  • Incorporate storytelling elements, such as a clear beginning, middle and end to guide users through the data and help them draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Use data-driven narratives to present the data in a way that resonates with your audience and supports the decision-making process.
  • Consider the use of interactive elements, such as drill-down capabilities or tooltips to allow users to explore the data and uncover deeper insights.
  • Continuously review and refine the storytelling approach based on user feedback and data analysis to ensure that the narrative remains impactful and relevant.
  • By telling a story with your data, you can make the dashboard more engaging, memorable and effective in conveying the intended message and insights to your audience.

Visual consistency

Image source — https://www.uxpassion.com/blog/the-importance-of-visual-consistency-in-ui-design/
  • Visual consistency is crucial in designing a dashboard to create a cohesive and professional look and feel.
  • Establish a consistent visual style, including color schemes, typography and iconography throughout the dashboard.
  • Use a limited color palette to maintain visual harmony and avoid overwhelming the user with too many colors.
  • Ensure that fonts and typography are consistent across all elements of the dashboard, promoting readability and clarity.
  • Use consistent iconography and visual cues to represent actions, categories or data points consistently throughout the dashboard.
  • Maintain consistent spacing, alignment and layout across different sections and components of the dashboard.
  • Apply consistent formatting and styling to data visualizations, such as charts and graphs to ensure a unified and coherent presentation.
  • Regularly review and update the visual elements of the dashboard to ensure they align with the latest design standards and trends.
  • Test the dashboard across different devices and screen sizes to ensure visual consistency and responsiveness.
  • By maintaining visual consistency, you can create a visually appealing and user-friendly dashboard that enhances the overall user experience and professionalism.

Group related pieces of information

Image source — https://slideplayer.com/slide/14436861/
  • Group related pieces of information together in the dashboard to improve organization and ease of understanding.
  • Identify common themes, categories or topics within the data and group them accordingly.
  • Use visual cues, such as borders, backgrounds or spacing to visually separate and distinguish different groups of information.
  • Consider the natural flow of information and arrange related elements in a logical order that makes sense to the user.
  • Use headings, subheadings or labels to clearly indicate the purpose or context of each group of information.
  • Avoid overcrowding the dashboard by limiting the number of elements within each group and maintaining a balanced layout.
  • Ensure that the grouping of information aligns with the goals and tasks of the users, making it easier for them to find and interpret the relevant data.
  • Regularly review and refine the grouping of information based on user feedback and data analysis to optimize the organization and usability of the dashboard.
  • By effectively grouping related pieces of information, you can enhance the clarity and accessibility of the dashboard, enabling users to quickly find and comprehend the data they need.

Efficient interactions

Image source — https://www.justinmind.com/blog/microinteractions/
  • Design the interactions within the dashboard to be efficient and intuitive, minimizing the effort required for users to navigate and interact with the data.
  • Use clear and concise labels, tooltips or instructions to guide users on how to interact with different elements of the dashboard.
  • Incorporate interactive features, such as clickable buttons, dropdown menus or sliders to allow users to manipulate and explore the data.
  • Ensure that interactive elements are responsive and provide immediate feedback to user actions, enhancing the overall user experience.
  • Implement features like filtering, sorting or search functionality to enable users to quickly find and focus on the specific data they need.
  • Provide options for customization and personalization, allowing users to tailor the dashboard to their preferences and specific requirements.
  • Consider the context and goals of the users when designing interactions, ensuring that they align with their workflow and decision-making process.
  • Conduct usability testing and gather feedback to identify any potential pain points or areas for improvement in the interactions within the dashboard.
  • Continuously iterate and refine the interactions based on user feedback and data analysis to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of the dashboard.
  • By designing efficient interactions, you can enhance the usability and user satisfaction of the dashboard, enabling users to efficiently navigate, analyze and interact with the data.

Effective use of language

Image source — https://gwangjunewsgic.com/teaching/kotesol/attributes-of-an-effective-language-learner/
  • Use clear and concise language in the dashboard to effectively communicate information to the users.
  • Avoid jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to the target audience, opting for plain language that is easily understandable.
  • Use descriptive and meaningful labels for data points, metrics or categories to provide clarity and context.
  • Provide tooltips or explanatory text to define any terms or acronyms that may be unfamiliar to the users.
  • Use consistent terminology throughout the dashboard to avoid confusion and ensure a cohesive user experience.
  • Consider the reading level and language proficiency of the users, adapting the language and vocabulary accordingly.
  • Prioritize important information and use headings, subheadings or bullet points to break down complex information into digestible chunks.
  • Use active voice and concise sentences to convey information efficiently and maintain user engagement.
  • Regularly review and update the language used in the dashboard to align with any changes in terminology or user feedback.
  • By using effective language, you can enhance the clarity and understanding of the dashboard, ensuring that users can easily interpret and act upon the information presented.

Minimize the cognitive load

Image source — https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/minimize-cognitive-load-ux-gopakumar-t-venugopal
  • Minimize the cognitive load in the dashboard by removing any unnecessary representations or elements that do not contribute to the user’s understanding or decision-making process.
  • Simplify the design by focusing on the most relevant and essential information, avoiding clutter and visual overload.
  • Remove redundant or repetitive data points or visualizations that do not provide additional insights or value.
  • Streamline the layout and organization of the dashboard, ensuring that it is easy to scan and navigate.
  • Use visual hierarchy to prioritize and emphasize important information, guiding the user’s attention to the most critical elements.
  • Avoid excessive use of colors, fonts or visual effects that may distract or confuse the user.
  • Consider the cognitive load of the target audience and design the dashboard accordingly, taking into account their cognitive abilities and information processing capabilities.
  • Regularly review and reassess the dashboard to identify any unnecessary representations or elements that can be removed or simplified.
  • Continuously gather user feedback and conduct usability testing to identify any areas of cognitive overload and make necessary adjustments.
  • By minimizing the cognitive load, you can create a dashboard that is easier to comprehend, navigate and use, enhancing the overall user experience and effectiveness of the dashboard.

If I’ve missed any useful tips, I’d appreciate your comments to discuss and add them to the list.

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Abhi Chatterjee

UX Designer at Dubai Municipality specialised in User research & Interaction Design