Designing Informational Dashboards
Data-driven applications are crucial for delivering important business insights, which are now part of any online enterprise. Customers tend to utilize single interactive and intuitive user interfaces to visualize their data. Moreover, the informational dashboards are increasingly being used in tracking everyday activities such as summary of current usage, cost and balance of an online account, daily test reports or fitness exercise statistics.
As the use of data visualization is rapidly increasing for both simple and complex analytics, online businesses are looking for tools that can power their applications with rich visualization capabilities. Below are some guidelines and best practices for building informational dashboards for great user experience.
Users love to be in control on a subconscious level. This gives them the freedom, comfort and positive attitude to work smoothly with the application. An informational dashboard interface offers that kind of control and raises awareness of the data being visualized. This is achieved by providing three key functionalities:
- A clear understanding of the data and the environment, which raises the degree of certainty
- Resources for predicting future results and planning for them
- Explicit indications about critical states and tools to react to them quickly.
Another challenge for data visualization applications is the user’s ability to perceive and remember too many pieces of data shown at the same time. To tackle that, dashboard interfaces present all relevant information on a single page, where the user can see all of it without scrolling. Having everything displayed on the same screen also eliminates the need to remember anything.
In order to stimulate users’ perception, dashboards are splitting and grouping the data into more comprehensible chunks. Related data is placed in the same section or in one tab, making it easier to analyze.
To illustrate changes in data and show trends, tools like charts and graphs are proved to be the best. Graphical representation of data makes it easy to understand large quantities and the relationships between parts of it. Even though certain types of charts are prefered to others, they are used in a wide variety of fields.
Interactive charts, now supported by a variety of vendors like Shield UI, can be used to display overview or critical data in a single graph. That will allow users to easily drill-down to further details by just clicking on a specific portion of the graph. Such widgets enable various user experiences like replacing a single chart’s content or visualizing the details in a separate graph in a master-detail interface.
As a general principle, dashboard applications should be intuitive and simple to use.
All sections of the dashboard should be conveniently arranged, and if possible, reordering should be supported to allow personalization of the UI. Data and action elements should be properly labeled and explained with tooltips or inline text where applicable. Important messages should be delivered in a non-obtrusive, but clear and indicative manner, providing the appropriate elements for taking immediate action.
Understanding the user requirements and applying the best practices for dashboard design and development allows businesses to provide the best data-driven applications to their customers.