Data is not sexy, but data visualization is a social phenomena and is changing the way leading organizations do business across the world.
What is a digital dashboard? When most people hear the word dashboard, they think of something in their car. However, in the digital world the dashboard has become king, and for good reason.
A data dashboard is an information management tool that visually tracks, analyzes and displays key performance indicators (KPI), metrics and key data points to monitor the health of a business, department or specific process.
Most people appreciate a level of animation in a user experience as long as it the role of enhances the user experience. However, in the world of dashboards, animation plays the critical role of providing further explanation of the data and giving the user customized ways to drill down on the information. A good example of this is when a user is able to grab a data point and move it across a timeline to see how the data has changed over time.
Intuitive and engaging dashboards rely heavily on design that is simple and accommodating for ample amounts of information. Finding the nexus between showing the most critical and useful information and not causing information overload requires a veteran staff of UX/UI designers and working very closely with the client to understand their needs on an intimate level.
The key function or asset of a dashboard is that behind the scenes, a dashboard connects to your files, attachments, services and API’s; while on the surface, displaing all this data in the form of tables, line charts, bar charts and gauges for easy, digestible data comprehension.
The all-in-one, one-for-all data resource.
Data that is delivered in real time is essential, everything else is ancient history.
A data dashboard is the most efficient way to track multiple data sources in real time, because it provides a central location for businesses to monitor and analyze performance.
Real-time monitoring and automation tools reduce the hours of analyzing a long line of communication that previously challenged businesses.
Analytics, trends, occurrences, and the processing and compiling of data can all be done through dashboards via different application processing interfaces (APIs), freeing up exorbitant amounts of time and staff energy.
02Dashboards in Business
The business of dashboards is the business of understanding.
How do dashboards solve everyday business challenges? If your are a busy manager, let me introduce you to your next best friend.
An understanding or overview of your company’s performance is moments away. As a concept, performance dashboards have been around for many years and reports indicate that they have been widely adopted by businesses.
Data is visualized on a dashboard as tables, line charts, bar charts and gauges so that users can track the health of their business against benchmarks and goals is now a critical service for any business. Data dashboards allow data to be easily displayed, understood and paves the way to monitor and improve your business through visual representations.
Depending on how you decide to design your dashboard, even straightforward numerical data can be visually informative by utilizing intuitive symbols, such as a red triangle facing downward to indicate a drop in revenue or a green triangle facing up to indicate an increase in website traffic.
For example, a survey by The Data Warehousing Institute reported that about half of the
473 business intelligence professionals were using dashboards and that a further 17% of the respondents were in the process of developing a dashboard solution in their organizations (Eckerson). Also, a more recent survey by Gartner Inc. found that dashboards have been rapidly replacing reporting and ad-hoc analysis in Western organizations (Sallam).
Intelligence can be taught--well, kinda.
How are data dashboards used in business intelligence and analytics?
According to Wikipedia: “Analytics is the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Especially valuable in areas rich with recorded information, analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statistics, computer programming and operations research to quantify performance. Analytics often favors data visualization to communicate insight.”
Dashboards are a data visualization tool that allow all users to understand analytics without having to do one single calculation or spend any time learning about what is presented. Even for non-technical users, dashboards allow them to participate and understand the analytics process by compiling data and visualizing trends and occurrences. Data dashboards don’t rely on interpretation, they provide a completely objective view of performance metrics and serve as an effective foundation for immediate business decisions and planning. A dashboard is a business intelligence tool used to display data visualizations that are immediately useful.
Why should your business visualize data on a dashboard?
Changes to any aspect of a business, whether it be in marketing, sales, support, or finance, has an impact on the business as a whole. Dashboards give an immediate and precise look at how different departments success or failures are impacting the company as a whole. People have been monitoring their businesses without dashboards for ages, but data dashboards make it a heck of a lot easier can stop you from wasting time and money. With dashboards, users are able to dig into a level of performance understanding that provides an
articulate and insightful view of the KPIs of any organizations. Whether your businesses data is stored on a web service, attachment or API, a dashboard pulls this information and allows you to monitor all your data in one central location. Additionally, dashboards are capable of correlating data from different sources in a single visualization. By monitoring multiple KPIs and metrics on one central dashboard, users can make adjustments to their business practices in real-time.
Minimalism is big
Less is More
After years of designers coming up with new ways to improve the user interface, user interface design is going back to basics – at least according to some big name companies, including Google and Microsoft, to name a few. Glossy icons are replaced by simpler one-color versions or text-based buttons, with rich gradients with simple solid color combinations. Just take a look at some of the new Windows interface designs, or Pinterest templates.
It may be because the rest of our lives are too hectic for our own good, or that we just like solid primary colors because of how we revere our first set of color building blocks. For the majority of users, this lack of visual detail works astonishingly well – the interface is easy to digest and its elements don’t get in the way of the tasks they’re trying to accomplish. When to use it: minimalism is a great way to design a web application which focuses on user generated content – if done right, users will rarely complain about it. However, keep in mind that many clients will find this approach too simplistic for their taste, so you might want to check their preferences before starting your project.
Key characteristics that mark this style of dashboard design are grid-based layouts, good use of whitespace, and more reliance on typography and simple, minimalistic graphics. In a dashboard, this design style works superbly well because it puts emphasis on the content and sees that the story is communicated in a clear and concise manner.
Icons are a designer’s preferred element when it comes to showing navigation. A small graphic can convey a lot more than an entire line of text. However, the trend is shifting more towards labeled icons for navigation―a small icon followed by a one or two word description. This ensures that new users are not left guessing the meaning of those icons/symbols.
Context sensitive navigation came with the rise of dynamic user interfaces and is a great way to declutter your design. Basically, you need to ask yourself a simple question: which navigation elements should be on screen all the time and what can be shown only in certain situations or actions?
For example, Pinterest shows action buttons only when you hover on a pin, as shown on the image above. When to use it: context sensitive navigation can be used in almost any project. Carefully target buttons and gadgets that can be hidden until the user performs a certain action, such as hovering a link, turning a dropdown arrow, selecting a tab, etc.
05Dashboard Development Process
What to know before you go.
Audience and Goals
The best interface designs have a clear purpose and are specifically engineered for a specific audience. What level of information are you attempting to convey?
Will the dashboard provide background data or actually be formulating conclusions? In addition to knowing what you're trying to say, it's important to know who you're saying it to. Does your audience know this subject matter extremely well or will it be new to them?
And does your audience understand basic interaction tools, or will they need a certain level of training in order to make the best use of the tool that has been built for them?
What kind of cues will they need to easily digest the information without having to struggle? Thinking about these questions before you head into the design phase can help you create a successful dashboard.
No matter your data type, always look for outliers. Real life is messy – and so is raw data. Not everything will fit neatly into a visualization method or perfect bell curve, but considering the data types and what types of functionality that may accentuate this data will ultimately dictate the UI itself.
Before you envision fancy graphics and color schemes, remember that no matter how much you love a layout approach, the content of your dashboard needs to compel the kind of interface that is created and not the other way around.
This means that the first thing you must do when looking at an outline or dataset is to intimately understand the content and the underlying needs for this content. Data visualization is powerful because it brings plain data to life.
This is especially true of the relationships among the points in your dataset. If you’re using dates, is there a pattern in the frequency? For a list of items, is everything in the list independent and equal? Or are there sub groups that have their own relationships?
An information dashboard gives you control.
Whether it’s a personal finance dashboard that makes you conscious of you spending trends or an enterprise marketing dashboard that helps you keep track of your marketing budgets, both heighten your awareness of a situation, giving you the sense of control you crave.
We love to be in control. Imagine a situation where you are unaware of what’s happening around you. Very soon your panic button is switched on and you want to know what’s going on and what you can control. From an evolutionary standpoint, if we are in control of our environment we have a better chance of survival. Our subconscious mind prepares us for all kinds of danger (fight or flight) based on our perceived level of control.
In our experience, we have found that there is no other industry more aptly positioned to take advantage of the digital dashboard than the medical community.
Dashboard systems in hospitals need a user interface (UI) that can centrally manage and retrieve various information related to patients in a single screen, support the decision-making of medical professionals real- time by integrating scattered medical information systems and core work flows, enhance the competence and decision-making ability of medical professionals, and reduce the probability of misdiagnosis. See our work examples below.
Dashboard Development by FuseLab Creative
Our work featured here is just a small sampling of the interface and digital dashboard work we have developed for our clients over the past year.
After a dentist finishes his/her training, how do they start a new practice, and how do they manage patient needs once the practice has been established?
MMG is working on taking health information to the next level in terms of automation. The dashboard-based management system we helped create for MMG provides dentists an easy to use tool that promotes their services and helps to retain patients through ongoing customer/patient relationship management.
FuseLab has been quite fortunate to be working with an organization that understands the transformative power that timely access to health information contains, and we are looking forward to playing a very small part in the healthcare evolution that seems to be right in front of us now.
FuseLab Creative developed an entirely new corporate brand identity and detailed style guide that was used to create a simple, yet extremely efficient user flow for doctors and medical professionals to better manage their patient referrals, all from one dashboard of information.
ReferralMD is now one of the fastest growing physician relationship management systems in the country and has been formally endorsed by Cedar Sinai Medical Group.
ReferralMD was in need of rethinking the design of it’s software UX/UI as well as its public website. This would require hundreds of interface designs for the software system alone.
How to track laboratory inventory for each location.
Keep Tracked connects all the missing pieces together in one area for sales reps and healthcare facilities to be on the same page.
The entire staff of Keep Tracked now has the ability, through the use of the dashboard technology we created for them, to better understand their inventory and immediately get that information to their sales force so that can better serve their customers and ultimately better serve patients.
04Virtual reality/Augmented reality dashboard
The goal of this dashboard is to provide an overview of the activity that is happening in the company's virtual offices and remind staff of the work underway.
Organize the content in such a way that will help achieve the goals listed above.
For the two main goals the following solutions were designed:
- The most critical real-time data and requests could be dealt with directly from the dashboard without leaving it. Specifically, the company stuff can pick up live chat requests immediately as they are initiated, and all other important issues requiring action by stuff (such as new messages from potential clients) are displayed in real-time in a sidebar.
- The company's virtual offices called “rooms” that are not “open” to the visitors are listed in a separate block along with the current “reason”. This is to serve as a reminder that there is a job that has to be completed at certain company offices
05X4D software application
X4D as a software application is a very feature-rich and complicated system. The dashboard-based software provides a general overview of individual projects, information about the status of individual elements of the project and any critical deviations from the initial plan.
- Very complex system with many complex views.
- Make the system section look visually uniform.
- Allow the users to operate massive tabular data through a web interface.
- Bypass web limitations when dealing with nested levels.
All the available data has to be segmented and categorized, the most critical data has to be displayed on the dashboard to prevent “informational noise”.
The dashboards have been divided into three blocks.
The very first block provides information about the general project properties such as project dates, planned project time and the number of planned tasks that have to be carried out.The second block provides the current status of the project.
The third block is dedicated to comparing the current progress against the plan and flagging deviation from the original plan, if such a thing occurs.
Problem / Goal
The goal of the dashboard pages is to serve as the starting point to the system. It lists all the properties and projects that the client has and their current status.
List all objects and provide a way to navigate and access any of them.
The dashboard is designed as a list; items that require the users’ attention or any actions from them are made to stand out; it is possible to apply filters and use search to get to the desired items as well.
Problem / Goal
The dashboard system we created for SunSniffer gave management staff the ability to distribute energy produced and to monitor solar panel performance in real-time, in order to maintain peak performance.
This dashboard was created for everyone to visualize the information in a more intuitive and comfortable way.
Solar panel power production management requires constant oversight and manipulation. With our dashboard functionality, we created a system for staff that allows them to maximize the output of solar power and to closely monitor the efficiency and safety of individual panels through critical data collection and the ability to filter that data.
- Dashboards are everywhere—in enterprise software, Google Analytics and Facebook Ads Manager, and even popular blogs such as WordPress and Medium.
- With the big data and business analytics industry set to grow from $130 billion in 2016 to more than $203 billion in 2021, dashboards are going to become increasingly important.
- By 2019, more than half of real-time business dashboards will provide a panoramic view that provides information from multiple sources, and most people will come to expect this kind of information as part of any sales, marketing, or product service offering.