5 Tips for Designing Useful Dashboards

When it comes to designing dashboards for your users, stopping and taking a few minutes to plan out what you what to provide will go a long way in designing an effective end product. Let’s face it. It doesn’t matter how good a dashboard is, it will mean nothing if no body is actually using it.

1. Understand Your End User

This is the most important step in the process because your dashboard needs to provide the information your user wants as wells as being in a format that they will understand. There will be a big difference between business users and technical users. You may need to start by asking specifically what your end users would actually like to have included. When they tell you that they don’t know. Ask them what their KPI’s are as this may be a good starting point to find out what is actually interesting to them.

A business user may looking for zero downtime on a sales website, but would not be specifically be interested in the errors that are being experienced during the outages.

2. Keep Things Simple

The simpler your dashboard is, the more chance there will be that someone will actually use it. Your dashboard needs to provide specific insight to a user at a glance, then provide the option to dive deeper into that information, only if required. Try not to overload what you are providing to your user, ensuring that each iteration of the dashboard that you present to your user has a clearly defined outcome and end goal which can be specifically stated when presented back to the user.

3. Make Sure Your Data Is Correct

Sounds simple, but there can always be problems with the data your are providing. Are you capturing all the data to provide the correct results? Are you making changes to the data or manipulating it using a formula or calculation? All these and many more factors may come into play when ensuring that your data is reliable and correct. Double check your results, then check them again.

4. Keep Your Dashboard Up To Date

If your dashboard doesn’t provide real time data, make sure that you are updating your data daily or at least weekly. Stale or old data is one way to make people loose interest and stop using your dashboard. They will simply assume that the data will be the same as it was yesterday, so why bother checking for any change.

One way to engage users is to make upgrades and provide further details an insights as time goes on. Try to set limits to the changes you make in each iteration, but always work towards what they may be suggesting.

5. Does the Final Product Reflect Your Initial Research

In our first point of creating our dashboard, we asked our end user to specify the requirements or the information they needed. At the end of each iteration, before you are going to present it to your end users, ask if you have addressed the specific information that they wanted. It may also be a good time to remind the end user of these requirements as well.

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About The Author

Vince has worked with Splunk for over 5 years, developing apps and reporting applications around Splunk, and now works hard to advocate its success. He has worked as a system engineer in big data companies and development departments, where he has regularly supported, built, and developed with Splunk. He has now published his first book via Packt Publishing — Learning Splunk Web Framework.

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