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Dashboard Design Principles

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

Use UX Design to make dashboards deliver insights FAST

What is UX? Why Should We Care About UX Principles in Dashboard Design?

Simpler Answer: UX stands for User Experience. We care because dashboard is for users to see and we want to create a nice experience that effectively delivers the insights to our audience.

Longer Answer: UX is not just visually appealing images, rather it emphases on the usability and the EXPERIENCE. Therefore, it is about creating a user-centred journey, starting from their first glimpse of the design until their attentions are drawn by something else. UX design is crucial for data visualization because information dashboards are getting more usage beyond just for business intelligence or data analysis professionals. Nowadays, it serves the need of everyone, either technical or non-technical, on a daily basis. For example, when you open your fitness app, there are dashboards that track down your exercises over time. When you check at your activities on social media apps, that's also data visualization.

Sometimes it is just painful, and I know that your brain is screaming when you see massive data like this. Definitely, you wouldn't say that is good user experience. That's why we need better visuals to summarise the data and tell us what is important within 5 seconds.

If you would love to know more about how to perform data preparation on messy data like this before building the dashboard, check out this article:

How to Address Common Data Quality Issues


Three UX Design Principles for Better Dashboard

1. Just KISS

I am sorry it is not what you are thinking ;)

KISS means "keep it simple, stupid". Good user experience doesn't mean stacking all the beautiful graphics together. It looks amazing, but your attention is dispersed everywhere on the screen, and to be honest, it is tiring. It is also not about creating complicated graphs that show off how scientific and professional they look, that only scare people off.

There are some graphs we’d better avoid using based on this principle. For example, only use 3D chart if it is really necessary. Most of the time, the third dimension just doesn’t serve any purpose. Instead, it makes the visuals so heavy and thick to digest.

Another example is secondary y-axis, it takes more frictions and efforts to understand which axis the chart is mapped against. Like this chart below, can you easily tell which axis is for the bar chart and which one is for the line chart within 3 seconds?

Therefore, keep it minimal and eliminate clutter, these simple tricks can additionally make your dashboard looks cleaner instantly:

1. Use no more than five colours (or 3 main colours) in one dashboard.

2. Un-bold chart captions and titles. Make them concise.

3. Remove chart gridlines and borders.

Delivering knowledge is not about showing off how skilled you are, rather it is to highlight