Top 10 Dashboard Design Principles that Top Designers Use

In today’s world, data has become an integral part of decision-making processes for businesses of all sizes. As a result, dashboards have become an essential tool for monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking progress toward goals. 

However, not all dashboards are created equal. A poorly designed dashboard can hinder the decision-making process and create confusion among users. That’s why top designers use specific principles when creating dashboards to ensure they are both visually appealing and functional. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the top 10 dashboard design principles that top designers use in 2023. By understanding these principles, you’ll be able to create effective dashboards that make data easy to understand and act upon.

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Key Dashboard Design Principles that Top Designers Use

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How To Design A Dashboard - Top 10 Best Practices to Follow

To help you create a dashboard that meets your business needs, we’ve put together the top 10 best practices to follow. From understanding your audience to using the right visualizations, these tips will ensure that your dashboard is effective and easy to use.

1. Focusing on the Audience & Determining Goals

One of the most effective dashboard design principles is to consider the audience. The purpose of a dashboard is to provide information to its users, and the information presented should be relevant to their needs. By understanding the needs, goals, and preferences of the intended audience, designers can create a dashboard that is more effective and user-friendly. For example, executives may need a high-level overview of the business with key performance indicators, while departmental managers may require more granular details of performance metrics.

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It’s important to consider the audience’s level of expertise with the data presented, as well as their preferred format for visualizing data. Taking the time to understand the audience and their needs can help to ensure that the dashboard provides valuable insights and helps to drive better decision-making.

The purpose of a dashboard is to provide insights and information that helps to achieve specific goals. Before starting the dashboard design process, it’s important to identify the goals of the dashboard and how it will be used. This helps to ensure that the dashboard provides relevant and actionable insights.

Goals could be anything from improving customer satisfaction, increasing revenue, reducing costs, or increasing productivity. By identifying the goals, designers can determine which metrics to track, which charts and graphs to use, and how to organize the information on the dashboard. The goals should also be communicated to stakeholders and users of the dashboard, so that they understand the purpose and how it can help them achieve their goals. By keeping the goals in mind throughout the design process, designers can create a more effective and valuable dashboard.

2. Going for the Relevant KPIs

Choosing relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is a vital best practice for operational dashboard design. KPIs are quantifiable values that offer insights into how great a business or organization is functioning. They serve to classify trends, track growth in the direction of goals, and make data-based judgements.

When designing a dashboard, it is central to recognize the KPIs that are most appropriate to the particular organization. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when selecting KPIs:

  • Bring the KPIs in line with business goals: The KPIs selected for the dashboard should line up with the business or organization’s goals. This assists to make certain that the dashboard delivers insights that are most applicable to reaching those goals.
  • Focus on a few main metrics: It’s vital to focus on a few key metrics instead of trying to include many KPIs. This aids to keep the dashboard uncluttered and easy to read, and guarantees that the most important information is made prominent.
  • Use leading and lagging indicators: Leading indicators are foretelling, while lagging indicators measure the performance from past. Counting both types of KPIs in a dashboard can provide assistance to find trends and offer a comprehensive picture of performance.
  • Select KPIs that are quantifiable: KPIs should be calculable and assessable, so that progress can be followed and calculated over time.
  • Study the audience: The KPIs picked should be related to the audience that will be consuming the dashboard service. For instance, executive-level dashboards may include complex financial and operative KPIs, while departmental dashboards may comprise of more granular functionality metrics.

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By choosing the most relevant KPIs, dashboard designers can create a tool that provides workable insights and motivates better decision-making. It’s crucial to frequently analyze and modernize KPIs to make sure they remain applicable and associated with business aims.

3. Consistency is the Key

Consistency is a critical best practice for effective dashboard design. A consistent design ensures that users can quickly and easily understand the information presented, without having to spend time figuring out how to use the dashboard. Design elements like color, typography, spacing, and layout should be consistent throughout the dashboard.

Consistency in the use of icons and other visual elements can also help to create a more cohesive and professional look. A consistent design makes it easier for users to navigate the dashboard and discover the information they want, which can surge the usability and value of the dashboard. It’s significant to create a design scheme or style guide that frameworks the design elements and instructions to be used all over the dashboard. By maintaining a consistent design, designers can produce a more operative and accessible dashboard.

4. Providing Context

When the numbers being shown on the screen are devoid of any context, it’s almost useless for the viewers. Without comparison values, numbers on a dashboard are pointless. And more notably, the users won’t know whether any action is necessary. For instance, a dashboard design created for managing a business will be used to show and compare advanced metrics that can be seen as a story so that the users can make a decision based on the changes on the metrics for the future of the business. 

Context can be provided in a variety of ways, such as including timeframes for the data, comparisons to benchmarks or targets, and explanations of the metrics and data sources. By giving context, designers can help users understand how the information relates to the business or organization, and provide a more complete and accurate picture of performance.

Ensuring a clear and prominent presentation of the context is among the key dashboard design principles because it helps the users with easily understanding the information that is presented. 

5. Carefully Selecting the Dashboard Type

Information is valuable only when it is directly actionable. The receiving user must be able to employ the information in his own business strategies and goals and a specific type of dashboard, will be able to portrait the information correctly. Thus, the choice of the dashboard design can really effect the whole design.

There are different types of dashboards, each serves a different purpose. The types are:

  1. Operational – This dashboard type is designed for real-time monitoring, measuring and managing the processes of key performance indicators with a shorter or immediate time scale.
  2. Strategic – It’s a tool used for high-level insights into long-term trends and performance. This type is focused on monitoring the continuing strategies of the company by benchmarking and examining an extensive variety of acute trend-based information.
  3. Analytical – This type is made for a deeper analysis of data because it contains large streams of comprehensive data that allow analysts to drill down and extract insights to help the company to progress at an executive level.
  4. Tactical – The tactical dashboard type provides information on specific projects or initiatives. This is why these are most appropriate to mid-management and aid in formulating strategies for progress built on drifts, strong points, and flaws through different divisions.

It’s important to select the right dashboard type for the specific business or organization and its goals. By picking the right type, designers can make sure that the dashboard offers the most relevant and valued information. It’s also significant to make sure that the dashboard is user-friendly and easy to navigate, irrespective of the type chosen. By selecting the right dashboard type, designers can make a more effective tool for management.

6. Maintaining Geographical Integrity

As obvious as it may seem, it’s still important to mention that maintaining the right geographical integrity is super important. Graphical integrity fundamentally refers to conserving the accuracy of the data. This means being impartial about the standards and avoiding shaping them in a certain way that will be profitable for the analysis.

Maintaining geographical integrity is an essential best practice for dashboard design as it ensures that the displayed data accurately reflects the location being represented. When designing dashboards that incorporate geographic data, it is essential to give close consideration to the geographic context of the data being exhibited. This includes confirming that the maps used are exact, the projections and scales are suitable, and the data is ordered by applicable geographical margins.

By maintaining geographical integrity, the dashboard can provide clear and accurate insights that can be efficiently used for decision-making. Largely, a dashboard that obeys this dashboard design principle can progress the user’s understanding of the data and deliver a more operative tool for data exploration.

7. Using Interactive Elements

One of the most important Dashboard UX design principles is using interactive elements augments user engagement and guarantees more effective data analysis. Interactive elements such as dropdown menus, clickable maps, and filters facilitate users to discover and analyze the data in a more bespoke way. This, consequently, sanctions users to gain profounder insights into the data and make up-to-date decisions. Interactive elements can also improve the visual appeal of the dashboard and make it more accessible, as they make an intuitive and easy-to-navigate interface available to the users. Moreover, interactive elements can help to decrease clutter on the dashboard by allowing users to hide or enlarge data as desired. As a whole, using interactive elements in dashboard design can make the data more available, appealing, and actionable.

In view of, what helps create a good dashboard, factoring time interval widgets, drill-downs, and click-to-filter is important.

The click-to-filter option is very fundamental in separating data. This feature allows users to exploit the dimensions of the charts and graphs within a dashboard as short-term filter values. In practice, that means that this filter will apply data to the entire dashboard just by clicking on a precise place of interest.

Another key component is the Drill-down is a smart interactive piece that allows the user to drill down into more comprehensive dashboard information related to a particular element, variable, or key performance indicator without overcrowding the overall design. They are neat, interactive, and give you the choice of viewing or hiding key insights when you want rather than wading through muddied piles of digital information. 

8. Effective Use of White Space

One of the most understated yet significant design principle for dashboard designing is the careful and calculated use of white space. The white which can also be termed as negative space is the empty area amid components that are featured on a dashboard design. It helps to enhance readability, focus attention on the most important information, and create a clean, uncluttered look.

The stats, merits and insights become very difficult to digest once the overall visual composition of the design isn’t well done. That’s why skilled designers, like ours, acknowledge that the effective use of white space has a focal role in the whole process of design. 

Designers should use white space strategically to separate different sections and elements of the dashboard, and to provide visual breaks that help to guide the user’s eye through the content. By using white space effectively, designers can create a more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing dashboard that delivers key information in a clear and concise manner.

9. Multiple Device Optimization

It’s of great prominence that the dashboard design be optimized for a varieties of devices to add to the user experience. Given the range of devices used to access dashboards, comprising smartphones, tablets, and desktops, it is imperative to consider how the layout, font size, and visual elements will look and work across diverse screen sizes. For instance, the positioning of elements will clearly differ on a mobile dashboard owing to its smaller screen. Furthermore, the level of analysis too may not be as profound as on a desktop version because the smaller dashboard needs to focus on only the most critical and complex visuals that will fit the screen.

Designers should consider how users will interact with the dashboard on each device and prioritize the most important information for each screen size. Additionally, designers should ensure that the dashboard is receptive, meaning it adjusts to the screen size of the device being used, and that the user experience is consistent across all devices. So we advise, to maintain the best user experience, the buttons should be well optimized for all hands’ shapes and sizes and only the most important metrics and information should be kept on the screen.

10. Testing, Iteration & Evolution

Testing and iteration are super essential dashboard design principles that help guarantee that the dashboard is practical, manageable, and operational in conveying insights to the user. By testing the dashboard with users, designers can gain valuable feedback about the design, performance, and the whole usability of the dashboard. This feedback can then be used to iterate on the design, making required changes and enhancements to meet user requests.

Moreover, designers should consider carrying out A/B testing, which includes testing different versions of the dashboard with different users to define which version is more effective. From end to end testing and iteration, designers can refine the dashboard design, making it more operational and beneficial for users, while also plummeting the threat of inaccuracies or mix-ups. 

In general, testing and iteration are vital practices of paramount importance for designing an effective dashboard that meets user requirements and offers valuable understandings. The digital world is ever-evolving. Change is continuous, and the design principles for dashboards are supported by a disposition to advance and improve your design struggles constantly. If not, the success of your labors will be delayed. Evolution is the way to go!

Key Takeaways for an Effective Dashboard Design

When applied together, these dashboard design principles create an impregnable route for design that will assist you yield visualizations that will boost your data analysis work rampantly. An effective data dashboard should be prominent yet visually well-adjusted, practical yet easy-to-use, user-friendly, and custom-made to your goals plus those of your users. 

Each dashboard should be designed, with the precise goal of serving users bang into business decision-making methods and renovate digital insights into positive tactical actions. Every dashboard you create should be present for a focused user group. Furthermore, dashboard design must serve like the icing on the cake to your business intelligence (BI) skills.

By following the basic dashboard design principles discussed in this blog, you can create an intuitive and user-friendly dashboard that not only provides easy access to relevant data but also helps to improve decision-making processes. So, take the time to plan, test, and refine your dashboard design, and don’t be afraid to iterate based on user feedback to ensure that it meets the needs of your intended audience.

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