ComponentOne: Tips for Dashboard Design
Written by Kelley Ricker
Dashboard design is a popular topic right now amongst both users and developers. I’ve had many recent conversations (both internal and external) focused on the desire to visualise data into a dashboard form. Designing dashboards is not a simple process, and it is important to keep several details in mind when designing any user interface.
Identifying the KPI
The first and most crucial idea is to identify the most important metric to your dashboard. This is sometimes referred to as a KPI (key performance indicator), and it should be the focal point of your design. If you’re designing a sales application then perhaps this is a quarterly sales figure or percentage to goal, or if the application is tracking web traffic perhaps this is the number of unique visitors to your website. This should be a combination of knowing your own data, the purpose of your application, and the desires of your users. The data should be presented simply, and not muddled with extraneous detail.
The second aspect is to keep the design simple. Good UI’s shouldn’t be overly complicated, and they should be simple enough that a user can navigate through them quickly and easily. This is really a companion piece to the first idea, and keeping the design simple goes along with only presenting the most important data. Further, it is important to keep features and data organised. A clean design with less features is going to be much easier for users to navigate than a cluttered but feature rich design. It is important to select the features which will be most meaningful for your users and design around those core features.
Another important aspect is determining what platform your user base is most likely to use. If your users are most likely to be viewing your dashboard on their iPads rather than a Windows Desktop then it is important that your application is designed with that platform in mind. Development via Xamarin.Forms and Xuni can be especially powerful since it opens up design for multiple mobile platforms (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone). Xuni and Xamarin.Forms allows you to target multiple platforms at once and takes care of many of these design concerns for you, but it is still important to make sure that the interface elements are laid out and sized for the device that your users are most likely to use, be it on a tablet or smartphone.
Knowing you users is also one of the most important aspects of design. Developers often have some idea of what metrics user will find important, but they may miss the mark in determining which details should be most emphasised. Asking your audience via poll or survey what data they’re most interested in can often yield the strongest results. Likewise it is also important to allow users to manipulate this data into something manageable through filtering, sorting and categorising.
Data visualisation tools provide a rich toolbox for designing your application, but dashboard design is all about identifying the problem you need to solve and using the right tools to provide the solution. Knowing your data and your customers is key to being able to present your information clearly and succinctly in dashboard form. Xuni expands your reach to new platforms, and provides a strong framework with which you can achieve your design goals.