Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
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A Quick Look at Dashboard Design Principles
Determine the need for drill-down details
Many dashboards provide drill-down features that allow you to click through to the details of a
specific measure. You want to get a clear understanding of the types of drill downs your users have
in mind.
To most users, a drill-down feature means the ability to get a raw data table supporting the measures
shown on the dashboard. Although this isn’t always practical or possible, at minimum, you can set
expectations and document the request for future dashboard versions. This allows you to plan for
any macros, links, or other solutions that you may have to include with your dashboards.
Establish the update schedule
An update schedule refers to how often a dashboard is changed to reflect the latest information
available. As the one who will build and maintain the dashboard, it’s important that you have a say in
these schedules. Your customer may not know what it will take to update the dashboard in question.
While talking about this schedule, keep in mind the refresh rates of the different data sources you will
need to get the measures. You won’t be able to refresh your dashboard any faster than your data
sources. Also, negotiate enough development time to build macros that will automate redundant
and time-consuming updating tasks.
A Quick Look at Dashboard
Design Principles
Excel users live in a world of numbers and tables, not visualization and design. Your typical Excel
analyst has no background in visual design and is often left to rely on his own visual instincts to design
his dashboards. As a result, most Excel-based dashboards have little thought given to effective visual
design, often resulting in overly cluttered and ineffective UI.
The good news is that dashboards have been around for a long time, so we have a vast Knowledge
Base of prescribed visualization and dashboard design principles. Although many of these principles
seem like common sense, these are concepts that Excel users don’t think about regularly. Let’s break
that trend and review a few dashboard design principles that will improve the design of your Excel
dashboards.
Many of the concepts in this section come from the work of Stephen Few, visualization
expert and author of several books and articles on dashboard design principles. Because
this topic focuses on the technical aspects of building dashboards in Excel, this section
offers a high-level look at dashboard design. If you find yourself captivated by the
subject, feel free to visit www.perceptualedge.com to see Stephen Few’s website.
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