Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
A Quick Look at Dashboard Design Principles
Skip the trend lines: Seldom does a trend line provide insight that can’t be gained with the
already plotted data or a simple label. In fact, trend lines often state the obvious and
sometimes confuse readers into thinking they are part of another data series. Why place a trend
line on a line chart when the line chart is in and of itself a trend line of sorts? Why place a
trend line on a bar chart when it’s just as easy to look at the tops of the bars? In lieu of
trend lines, add a simple label that states what you’re trying to say about the overall trend
of the data.
Avoid unnecessary data labels: Nothing states that you need to show the data label for every
value on your chart. It’s okay to plot a data point and not display its value. You’ll find that your
charts have more impact when you show only numbers that are relevant to your message.
Don’t show a legend if you don’t have to: When you’re plotting one data series, you don’t
need to display a space-taking chart legend. Allow your chart title to identify the data that
your chart represents.
Remove any axis that doesn’t add value: The purpose of the X and Y axes are to help a user
visually gauge and position the values represented by each data point. However, if the
nature and utility of the chart doesn’t require a particular axis, remove it. Again, the goal here
is not to hack away at your chart. The goal is to include only those chart elements that
directly contribute to the core message of your chart.
Limit each dashboard to one viewable page or screen
A dashboard should provide an at-a-glance view into key measures relevant to a particular objective
or business process. This implies that all the data is immediately viewable at one time. Although this
isn’t always the easiest thing to do, it’s best to see all the data on one page or screen. You can
compare sections more easily, you can process cause and effect relationships more effectively, and you
rely less on short-term memory. When a user has to scroll left, right, or down, these benefits are
diminished. Furthermore, users tend to believe that when information is placed out of normal view
(areas that require scrolling), it is somehow less important.
But what if you can’t fit all the data in one viewable area (one page or one screen)? First, review the
measures on your dashboard and determine if they really need to be there. Next, format your
dashboard to use less space (format fonts, reduce white space, adjust column and row widths). Finally, try
adding interactivity to your dashboard, allowing users to dynamically change views to show only
those measures that are relevant to them.
We discuss how to add interactive features in Chapter 12.
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