dashboard design

which key figures belong on a dashboard – and which do not.

In our blog post on dashboard design basics, we explained what it takes to create an understandable and appealing dashboard. In this blog post, we’ll go into the conception and planning of your dashboard and explain how to select the right information and distinguish it from irrelevant ones. You’ll also learn how to evaluate this information in terms of usability and use it to identify requirements for your dashboard.

usefulness is in the eye of the beholder.

A dashboard is only successful if it also assists in solving problems and the information displayed on it is justified in the eyes of the target group. That’s why it’s important to first engage with the future viewer of the dashboard. This is because they will be the ones to use the operational dashboards to visualize work-relevant information and derive action recommendations from it. Their actions, in turn, influence the information being visualized.
Since employees already have a mental model of their work, a dashboard should simply refresh or support awareness of the processes in the mental model. This works best if the information is presented in such a way that it corresponds as closely as possible to the mental model.

map individual process steps on dashboard.

Each person who performs a particular workflow process has a mental model that runs through each step of the process in a specific order. This model includes an understanding of how the parts of the process relate to and affect each other. It also includes actions that can be taken when problems occur.
Because a work process inherently conforms to a specific sequence, its individual parts are arranged in the mental model to reflect that sequence. Therefore, a dashboard that organizes information in this way will make it easier for the employee or collaborator to grasp the information it displays.
So, if you want to design a successful dashboard, you should first understand the thought process of the viewer and capture the mental models of the very processes the dashboard is intended to assist with.

preparation is key.

To figure out the individual parts and processes of a mental model, it is helpful to draw them out schematically. Simple sketches of circles or rectangles representing parts of the process and lines connecting related parts are usually sufficient. To do so, talk to someone in the department and ask questions such as, “How does X relate to Y?” or “If there is a problem here, how does it affect Z?” Iteratively refine the sketch until it most closely matches the mental model of the target audience. This will give you an idea of what the context of use of the dashboard looks like.

here’s how to assess what information is truly relevant.

Now that you have an understanding of the context of use, it’s time to figure out what information you need to create an effective visualization. You can find out specifically by asking the following questions:

Start with the target group: Who will need the dashboard for their work and what information is really relevant? What previous knowledge is available? Are there any existing positive or negative experiences?
A thorough understanding of your target audience will help you create a customized dashboard they can work with efficiently and effectively.

Dashboards can be made available to different users, who in turn may belong to different departments. Deploying a dashboard across multiple areas of the organization has the potential benefit of bringing many employees on board. However, it is not easy to design a dashboard that serves the needs of different user groups equally well.

Define in advance what you want to accomplish with the dashboard. It can be helpful to limit yourself to three of these functions:

  • Helping you decide what is important or needs attention at the moment.
  • Visualizing goals and their achievability
  • Providing an overview of the situation
    Stimulating specific actions in a timely manner
  • Alerting when a problem arises
  • Communicating progress and successes
  • Providing an interactive interface to intervene in processes
  • Keep the workforce informed about important issues

Dashboards may take the most diverse forms and be designed for a variety of applications – but they have one thing in common, regardless of their function: they should contain only the most important information and present it clearly. How detailed or interactive it is and which time window is taken into account depends on the application in question.

By the way, our templates give you a nice overview of different types of dashboards.

The basis of any visualization is of course always the key figures. They provide the content of the dashboard and should always present relevant relationships in a tangible, measurable and sometimes even comparable way.
You can distinguish between key figures that describe the progress of a process based on its goals and those that describe potential dangers or problems.

as little as possible, as much as necessary.

We are used to being exposed to a constant flood of information – much of which is irrelevant. As a result, dashboards often contain information that may have been useful in the past, but no longer provides any real value. However, the power of habit keeps users from weeding out this information.
To prevent such irrelevant information from showing up in your dashboard and wasting space or time, decide beforehand whether it still helps optimize the process. Ask questions like “In what situation is this information helpful?” and “How does it affect your actions?” If no situation comes to mind, the information doesn’t belong on the dashboard. After all, dashboards aren’t just there to convey information. They are also meant to help you avoid problems, identify opportunities, or take action. That’s why it’s important to visualize only the information that supports that.

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