Many professionals use Excel to store data that they want to visualize and turn into dashboards. The trouble is, creating a visually persuasive dashboard isn’t always simple.
Many Excel dashboards cause more problems than they solve by adding unnecessary complexity. You end up spending more time trying to understand what’s in front of you instead of learning answers to questions. Many charts also lack interactivity which limits the ability to explore data and uncover meaningful insights.
What if you could turn this around and start creating visually persuasive dashboards? Visually persuasive dashboards aren’t just about making beautiful charts and graphs. They enable you to:
• Communicate important information about a given subject and draw attention to problem areas
• Convey your findings rapidly with all the information at your fingertips
• Engage users with interactive charts and graphs
Here are five steps for creating visually persuasive dashboards:
1. Identify Key Metrics
This is a classic case of less is more. Go beyond identifying whether a metric is relevant to your dashboard and instead ask yourself, “is this data point imperative to this dashboard?” If not, leave it out.
Establish a common ground by using metrics that users immediately recognize such as capital expenditure, change in sales, or time to hire. Pull metrics from credible sources to help you gain buy-in.
2. Develop a layout that guides users through the data
Try to anticipate users’ questions and organize metrics accordingly so that your dashboard is ready to deliver answers. Group related metrics together to show how they form the big picture.
Users generally tend to look at content on the top and left sides of a page or screen first. Place the most important metrics in these areas. Consider a grid layout. It lets you space metrics evenly across the dashboard to maintain visual cohesion.
3. Provide a comparison for all KPI’s
Absolute measures don’t give context, which reduces users’ ability to understand and act on the data. Instead, include comparisons and trends to show how the company is progressing toward its goals.
For instance, if 500 prospects visited your booth on the first day of an industry conference, so what? Show how this compares to the traffic on the other days of the show and to that of last year’s show.
Highlight metrics that are moving in the wrong direction in order to focuses users on the areas that need attention.
4. Design the dashboard to maximize comprehension
Use charts that are user-friendly and easy to interpret, such as bar and line graphs. Avoid charts that require users to spend extra time comprehending the data.
Every pixel matters. Eliminate fancy shading, outlines, and icons when creating charts (also known as “chart junk.”) It detracts from the impact of the data. Use color to add meaning. For instance, use similar hues for objects that are related to one another. Use red or orange to alert users to a critical point.
5. Drive Engagement
Consider how users would want to interact with the data. Star and snowflake schemas work well for allowing users to configure their view of the data.
Invite users to explore the data more deeply. Include filters that allow users to view the data in a variety of ways. Provide ways to drill into data, such as through separate pages or windows of analysis.
Give users action items based on the results they just viewed. For instance, you can recommend next steps, revised business goals, or a person to contact to learn more information.