Dashboards have the power to quickly unlock information hidden in mountains of data and instrumentally inform key business decisions. Far too often, businesses overlook simple design elements that make these benefits almost completely unattainable. Designing effective dashboards requires an immense amount of attention to detail and communicating with multiple types of users. With so much to consider, key design standards are ignored too frequently. Whether you are beginning on your strategy or looking for ways to improve existing reports, these 5 tips will help you ensure that you receive a high ROI on reporting and drive value through dashboard design.
1. Create multi-purposed reports by adding intuitive filters and drill downs that reduce time spent searching for information.
Repetitive dashboards require more storage space and increase the time users spend navigating reports. Business users should not feel like they are searching for a needle in a haystack each time they want to include a metric. Multi-purposed reports fix this by reducing repetition of metrics so users don’t spend more time searching than they do analyzing.
Filters allow you to combine detailed and granular reports that focus on the same metrics. For example, if you have several sales reports focused on regions and stores, try combining them into a single dashboard. By using filters to aggregate metrics at either a store or region level, both sets of data are available in one place. Even better, this ensures that users rely on more consistent data.
2. Ensure your reports lead to accurate conclusions by highlighting only the most important metrics in a clean and well-organized format.
Creating clean and concise dashboards is much easier said than done. Doing so requires skill and thoughtful discussions with business users. Cluttered or poorly designed dashboards often place the burden of determining the key information on users. This wastes time and energy. Even worse, it could lead to them drawing the wrong conclusions and focusing their efforts on a misled analysis.
Put in the time up front to determine what is most important. Then, organize your dashboard to communicate this to your users. One of the easiest tricks is to place the most essential information in the upper left hand corner of your dashboard. Users will naturally look here first because it follows how we read.
3. Centralizing reports helps communicate their context to business users and keeps them aware of the overall big picture.
Not only must dashboards showcase the right information, but to ensure they remain in context, they must be located in the right place as well. The most accurate decisions are made when users have the entire picture. This is often lost when users flip between applications or reports to find relevant information. If reports are located in multiple places, it becomes challenging to understand how they relate or whether the data points are even connected at all. This can lead to inaccurate assumptions and decreased productivity.
One of the easiest solutions to drive value through dashboard design is to use embedded analytics, which allows you to surface reports directly in your internal applications. Alternatively, a centralized reporting portal ensures users can access all your reports from a single location.
4. Ensuring your BI notifications are clear and attention grabbing reduces the chance of losing time sensitive opportunities uncovered by data analytics.
Cost saving design standards go beyond graphs and color choices. Notifications are essential for decision makers to respond to business events in a timely manner. If events such as a shipping delay for a high priority client go unnoticed, you could miss the opportunity to respond in a timely manner. As a result, the ROI on your BI investments, and potentially your customer relationships, will suffer.
To ensure your notifications receive effective responses, keep the message short, clear, and to the point. BI notifications should make the user aware they need to analyze relevant data, not spell out the details and outcome of the analysis. You should limit notifications only to key updates, so users are not spammed every time a data point changes. Additionally, notifications should be delivered in a manner consistent with company communication practices to ensure they are received and acknowledged. Fortunately, many new BI tools such as Looker have built in alerts that can notify you quickly and painlessly.
5. Spend time on your user experience design. If a dashboard is not easier to use than the processes already in place, users will be frustrated.
A poor user experience is the easiest way to tank the success of any reporting initiative. A bad design will frustrate at best your individual contributors, and at worst paying customers. If business users cannot do their job correctly, productivity will nosedive. Not to mention, distrust for your analytics solution will sky rocket. Even worse, if paying customers are frustrated, you could see a direct hit to your revenues.
Dashboards with the best user experience often feature clean, responsive designs that feel modern and easy to use. If the dashboard is intuitive enough, it can impress even the most skeptical of users. This typically requires a strong analytics strategy with training and roll out plans to prevent frustration before it can even begin. A great tip to drive value through dashboard design is to include business users in the development process. This fosters buy in and allows their needs to be better addressed.
Aptitive has a vast range of experience in assisting companies with implementing all of these money saving tricks, and more. Whether you are now inspired to eliminate repetitive reports, or looking to implement these strategies earlier on, Aptitive can help you determine how to implement cost saving practices in your analytics strategy.
Rachel Stewart is a Data Management and Analytics Consultant at Aptitive. In her role, Rachel enables companies to discover insights and access the information held by their data.