Consistent dashboard design: write a simple sentence

You know that you should avoid the Crystal Xcelsius dashboard style, but now what? Where do you place your charts, kpi, tables?

Here is a trick that you can use: write a sentence or a paragraph that summarizes the core message. For example “Our sales are growing in an expanding market, and we are gaining market share, specially in these sales territories”. Discuss this sentence with the users. Is this what they want to know? Do they need more? Do they need less?

Once you have the sentence, break it and use each segment as a chart title:

  • “Sales are growing | declining…” (chart one)
  • “… in an expanding | shrinking market…” (chart two)
  • “… and we are gaining | loosing market share… ” (chart three)
  • “… specially in these territories… ” (chart four)
  • etc.

This trick assumes that you can define dynamic titles that change depending on one or more parameters (you can do it in dashboards for Excel). It has several advantages:

  • Helps you and the users to define what is relevant and what is not;
  • Makes it easier for you to know where to place the charts;
  • Offers the user a clear message template: they can use it as-is or they can add more detail;
  • Improves the overall consistency of your dashboard.

I used this trick recently and the users loved it. There are many approaches to dashboard design. This is a simple and practical one, but it may not be the right one for your needs. Whatever you do, make sure your dashboard follows good design guidelines.

What about you? What is your starting point when designing dashboards? Share it in the comments below.

1 thought on “Consistent dashboard design: write a simple sentence”

  1. Very good and simple idea Jorge.

    I also recommend similar approach to my students. Even before plunging in to dashboard mockup or excel charts, one should list down information needs of the dashboard. This can be done by answering the simple question, “what is the purpose of this dashboard? What should it communicate?”. Once we list all the various things that users expect from the dashboard, we will know where to find the data and what charts to make. Rest of the puzzle falls in to place naturally.

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