Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke 13 November 2018

The 10 commandments for a successful dashboard

All organisational decisions should be based on data, and more and more people are becoming aware that ‘the numbers tell the tale’. At the same time, companies are increasingly switching to working in the cloud. The demand for online dashboards is therefore on the up, with no time or effort spared in their development. Yet the large majority of these dashboards are never used. What a waste!

Follow the 10 commandments given below to be assured of a dashboard which will be indispensable for everyone involved.


Marketing managers take a completely different view of the dashboard when compared with marketing employees. The marketing manager is looking for immediate confirmation of the relative performance of marketing channels, the target and a comparison with last year. Marketing employees simply require insight into the performance of the various Google AdWords campaigns for example, for which they are personally responsible.
It would not be logical to design the same dashboard for them both. You therefore always need to discuss the dashboard with the person for whom you are developing it, to become aware of his or her work and responsibilities. Until you know that, you can never develop a successful dashboard.


Besides the fact that you need to become well acquainted with the target group of the dashboard, it is also important to know their KPIs. Any surplus, insignificant data on the dashboard will simply be ignored. Also essential is to know which questions are to be answered using the dashboard. How can we adjust the direction of the Facebook campaigns? Which countries are lagging behind target in terms of transactions? And which channels can we best deploy to boost numbers of job applications?


An effective dashboard immediately displays the most important information and stumbling blocks. This can only be achieved if the dashboard is concise. A dashboard containing an overload of information is likely to overwhelm people and deter them from using it. They cannot see the wood for the trees. The more limited the information on the dashboard, the greater the chance of it gaining attention and being used.


In the western world, we read from left to right and from top to bottom. Websites and therefore online dashboards are viewed in the same way. Make sure that the most important information on the dashboard is positioned in the top-left corner, therefore. Logos or drop-down menus are often included top left, but should preferably be moved to top right.


Not only websites but also data visualisation tools such as Klipfolio, Geckoboard and PowerBI use standard tiles to group data and clearly distinguish it from the rest of the dashboard. The examples below clearly show how a tile around a graph or figure enhances the clarity and legibility of a website or dashboard.



The use of colour is extremely important in a dashboard. Do not use colours simply because you find them attractive, but rather because they add value to your dashboard. While corporate colours are frequently used, they often add little definition to the dashboard and may even have the opposite effect.
Colour sales red if they are behind on target or use various shades of a colour to distinguish between age categories. Remember to take account of people who are colour blind, for whom there is no distinction between the combination of red and green, for example.


Anyone opening the dashboard should immediately understand the message conveyed in the figures and graphs. Use titles and keys if necessary, but certainly omit them if the data speaks for itself. Excessive (unnecessary) information tends to make a dashboard disorderly rather than orderly. A brief explanation will sometimes be necessary in the interpretation of graphs or figures.

Have one or two colleagues check the dashboard and ask them whether all is clear. Due to your own immersion in the figures, it is often difficult to view the dashboard objectively and to gauge whether there are any ambiguities.


Following on from the clarity issue, it is important to remain consistent in the dashboard. Use the same terms throughout the dashboard and apply the same colours to each group in the dashboard.


There were 100 transactions last week. Is this good, bad, as expected? Figures in themselves are not particularly telling. Data must therefore be compared with other data. Comparisons with previous periods and targets in particular, provide perspective for your data.


It is impossible to immediately develop a dashboard which will comply with all possible requirements. A feedback round must therefore always be organised following completion of the dashboard. Within a month, users are able to effectively determine what information is lacking, which data are incomprehensible and which data are not used. By listening carefully to this feedback, there is a far greater chance that the dashboard will continue to be used intensively, than when the feedback is ignored. Dashboarding is an ongoing process. A dashboard can only continue to be useful if it is regularly scrutinised and adjusted where necessary.

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