Best Practices for Dashboard Design
At BrightGauge, our goal is always to help you take control of your business by using the data at your fingertips, no matter the size of your organization. We know that having quick, reliable access to important metrics and data is essential to every customer’s success. But every business is unique. Not everyone needs to monitor the same metrics, which is why it can be difficult for users to decide which ones they’ll put on their dashboard.
Finding the right balance of operational and financial metrics is critical to providing a bird’s-eye-view of their business success. Over time, we’ve developed some guidelines to help customers choose gauges and set up dashboards that give them a quick and informative look at their most important business analytics.
When it comes to best practices for dashboard design, here are our 5 favorite tips:
1) Keep it Simple
The single biggest piece of advice that we give to clients when setting up their BrightGauge dashboard is to keep it simple. While it might be tempting to load every important metric into a dashboard, it is best to focus on only the most essential information.
We advocate for a 5-second “snapshot” rule. At a glance, your BrightGauge dashboard should let you know where attention is needed in 5-seconds or less. By placing only the most important and relevant gauges on one dashboard, you’ll quickly have a better understanding of where you stand. However, keeping it simple doesn’t mean you need access to less data. There are likely many data points that you need to analyze to gain a complete picture. When you need more data, you can use the rotate feature to view additional gauges that are relevant to your dashboard. Remember, you are never limited to a single dashboard, so try to group metrics with each other based on relevance.
2) Keep the Viewer in Mind
When deciding which gauges to include on your dashboard, consider who will be using the dashboard most often. What role does this dashboard viewer cover? What metrics will they need to do their job? Which metrics won’t be needed so often? Work directly with your teams to determine which metrics they access most in their daily work, and include those gauges on your main dashboard for that specific role.
As for deciding the number of gauges to include on a dashboard, we recommend choosing seven. Why seven specifically? We call all the way back to a study from the 1950s that showed that seven objects was the average capacity for the brain's working memory. Providing more metrics might provide more information initially, but will they retain that information? Don’t overwhelm your teams with a page full of numbers. Instead, focus on keeping relevant information together and try not to exceed seven gauges on any single dashboard.
3) Choose the Right Gauge
At BrightGauge, we know each of our users are unique, with different preferences and styles that they prefer. For that reason, we offer several different gauge styles (i.e. charts or diagrams) to choose from. The gauge style that you choose should be influenced by the metric that the gauge will be displaying. Remember that certain gauge styles lend themselves well to certain types of metrics. For example, here's a look at the same Server Patch Status data, but shown as a pie chart, bar chart, and a table:
Choosing the wrong display style can misrepresent the data in the eyes of the viewer. Consider what you want to learn from each specific metric. For instance, a pie chart wouldn’t be a wise choice for comparing daily support ticket metrics among dozens of service reps as it would be jumbled and difficult to read. Selecting the right gauge type is important for interpreting and analyzing data, but if you pick a style now and decide to change it later, you can easily update your choice with a couple of clicks.
4) Design Logically
The English language, and most other modern languages read from left to right. Most of us have been reading from left to right since we started elementary school. Our brains are wired to seek out information in that way. You can see this concept reflected in eye-tracking studies, where “F” patterns seem to dominate digital reading patterns. Most people will read through digital information the same way that they would a book - from left to right, all the way down the page.
So, design your dashboard with these things in mind. Put the metric that you would like to read first at the top, left-hand side of your dashboard. Place other metrics in order of importance from left to right, moving down the page.
5) Review Regularly
The beauty of a BrightGauge dashboard is that nothing is ever set in stone. You can change the layout of any dashboard at any time. Are you finding that you are not paying much attention to a specific gauge? Remove it and replace it with a more useful one. Have your metrics priorities changed? Shuffle your gauges around to reflect your most important metrics.
Every few months you should re-evaluate your current gauge layout and determine if it is in line with your priorities. Don’t be afraid to try out new things! If you find that a decision isn’t working for you, you can always revert to your previous design.
Next Steps in Mastering Your Dashboard Layout
The BrightGauge dashboard system is designed to be customizable, intuitive, and simple. If you are ready to learn more about dashboard best practices, check out our webinar recording on Dashboard Best Practices.