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Why Dashboards Don’t Work as Intended and What is Best Practice for Effective Dashboard Design


Dashboards are visual tools that display key performance indicators, metrics, and data in an easy-to-understand and interactive way. They are intended to help users monitor, analyze, and improve their business processes, outcomes, and decisions. However, dashboards may not always work as intended, for various reasons. Some of the common reasons are:

Poor design:

Dashboards that are poorly designed may be cluttered, confusing, or misleading. They may contain too much or too little information, irrelevant or inaccurate data, unclear or inconsistent labels, or inappropriate or distracting colors or charts. Poor design can make dashboards hard to read, understand, or use .

Lack of alignment:

Dashboards that are not aligned with the user’s goals, needs, or expectations may be ineffective or irrelevant. They may not reflect the user’s priorities, preferences, or context. They may also not provide the user with the right level of detail, granularity, or frequency of data. Lack of alignment can make dashboards unhelpful, useless, or frustrating .

Lack of action:

Dashboards that are not action-oriented may be passive or superficial. They may only show what has happened in the past, without explaining why it happened or what can be done about it. They may also not provide the user with actionable insights, recommendations, or feedback. Lack of action can make dashboards meaningless, boring, or redundant .

Some best practices for designing effective dashboards are:

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Define your purpose and audience:

Before you start designing your dashboard, you should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and who you want to serve with your dashboard. You should identify the key questions, goals, and needs of your audience, and align your dashboard with them. You should also consider the context and environment in which your dashboard will be used, and how it will fit into the user’s workflow .

Choose the right data and metrics:

Once you have defined your purpose and audience, you should select the data and metrics that are relevant, accurate, and reliable for your dashboard. You should choose data and metrics that are meaningful, measurable, and actionable for your audience. You should also avoid using too much or too little data or metrics, as this can overwhelm or underwhelm the user .

Use the right visual elements:

After you have chosen the data and metrics, you should choose the visual elements that will best display them in your dashboard. You should use visual elements that are appropriate, consistent, and intuitive for your data and metrics. You should also use visual elements that are easy to read, understand, and compare for the user. Some of the common visual elements are charts, graphs, tables, gauges, maps, icons, etc.

Organize and layout your dashboard:

Once you have selected the visual elements, you should organize and layout your dashboard in a logical and coherent way. You should group related data and metrics together, and arrange them in a hierarchical or sequential order. You should also use white space, colors, labels, and titles to create contrast, emphasis, and clarity in your dashboard .

Test and refine your dashboard:

After you have designed your dashboard, you should test and refine it to ensure that it meets your purpose and audience’s expectations. You should solicit feedback from your users and stakeholders, and use it to improve your dashboard. You should also monitor and update your dashboard regularly to ensure that it remains relevant, accurate, and reliable .

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