There are many ways to approach dashboard layout and design, but I have found value in starting with a fixed layout that enables a basic narrative for rapidly identifying if action is needed and then providing the necessary journey to understand what action is needed. The layout can then be adjusted as necessary.
The Simple Approach to Dashboard Layout
Overall layout has four areas that can largely be standardized across platforms to start making consistent user experiences irrespective if created in Tableau, Qlikview, Qlik Sense, Power BI, etc:
- KPIs – should I act?
- Charts – what action should I take?
How to Tell a Basic Story Through the Dashboard Layout
Let’s take a look at the ideal flow of the generic enterprise dashboard template. Opening the dashboard should land us the on home/summary tab for a specific user/persona. The journey begins by selecting the navigation tabs. From there the user scans the KPIs to get a pulse of the state of the business. Should there be any call to action needed then one of these summary charts will make it easily identifiable, typically by color. More focused exploration can happen on the other tabs of the dashboard, accessible via the navigation tabs.
Should a call to action be needed, but it is not clear exactly what, then the user is visually directed to one or more of the four detailed charts either by color association and/or comments.
In this example we can see the projected revenue for the week is below target. This is indicated by the kpi being orange in color. Scanning to the main dashboard area for more orange lands us on the inventory chart and we can see the stock count is only 200 but we project to sell 5,000 units.
Since we have tied an action to each chart then we know to call a specific number and find out what is happening with the inventory. Do we need to ship more units or is it simply a case of the inventory count being innacurate. Either way, an action is required.
With this rather simple layout of a dashboard you can see how a basic narrative can lead to powerful change. However, it may look simple in the design, but making it simple requires a lot of ground work.
In the next article we will look at the process that can get you there. Be sure to visit the Insight Burger post to see how important design thinking and the UX process is to dashboard design.