Data Visualizations: Making the Value, Happen!

Effective data visualization tells the user, at a glance, everything that is necessary to know. Hence the dashboards need to be well designed so as to give the users the right picture to analyze data, track performance and make informed decisions. Therefore, it is important to know the dashboard best practices so that users have access to what they really need.

Designing an effective dashboard

Planning is essential for effective dashboards. It is important to involve the business users when mapping the delivery requirements. It is a good idea to host a planning interview with the business users where the key business metrics that need to be tracked are identified. In addition, the business users should share the frequency of information updating. The data visualization team should be aware even before the start of the project about whether the metrics definitions are the same across the business unit and also whether the data level access rights etc. All of this will help in the creation of dashboards that are both user friendly and deliver the value promised.

It is important that the users are not overwhelmed with information. Depending on the user roles, the information access should be streamlined. It is most often enough to provide high level metrics that highlight the business process performance. In most cases, the business users require summarized information on the dashboard screen and this should be visualized in such a manner that it is easy to understand at a glance. If interested, the users should be able to drill down further information on the metrics shown.

Best practices for data visualization:

  1. There should be around 4 to 6 metrics on a single dashboard page. The metrics pertaining to a specific business unit need to be on a specific tab or page. This helps provide easy access and understanding.
  2. The ability to drill down should be a maximum of up to three levels. If the user needs to drill down further, they can always take the assistance of a data analyst or the IT team when needed.
  3. Charts, tables, graphs etc. should be utilized for data visualization. This helps in easy interpretation of the data. It is better to not go for pie charts. Bar charts are a better option to showcase differences to the users. The usage of gauges also needs to be restricted, as they do not provide too much information and at the same time occupy a lot of screen space.
  4. Dashboards need to be interactive; this would help the users access information easily and also customize the data views. Dashboards with filters help users to maneuver the data scope so as to meet their specific needs. Alerts help in capturing the user’s attention.

Data visualization mistakes to avoid

It is important that the users are not overwhelmed with information. Depending on the user roles, the information access should be streamlined. It is most often enough to provide high level metrics that highlight the business process performance. In most cases, the business users require summarized information on the dashboard screen and this should be visualized in such a manner that it is easy to understand at a glance. If interested, the users should be able to drill down further information on the metrics shown.
The graphs and charts should not be poorly designed. Considerable thought should be put into creating graphs and charts which boost viewer comprehension. Garish colors should be avoided.
Using metrics that the broader audience would not understand should be avoided. Easier concepts and metrics would help in keeping the dashboard reader friendly.

Keeping these simple tips in mind while working on data visualization and dashboard design would help in coming up with solutions that are coveted by users and help in business decision making.

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