From drilldowns to color-schemes, every pixel of your dashboard serves a purpose. If you’re looking to improve your data visualization strategy, or simply want to understand the fundamentals of effective reporting, the following tips and tricks are here to help:
- Dig into data with drilldowns
Dashboards let you view data on many levels, from “snapshots” of big reports to detailed drilldowns. Simply put, a data drilldown is a closer look at a specific data set, so you can understand the reasons behind larger metrics.
Key benefits of data drilldowns:
- Presents data sets from different angles for greater insight
- Presents detailed layers of data individually, so nothing gets overlooked
- Allows the user to choose the level and complexity of the data he or she sees
The key to effective drilldowns is interaction. In an interactive dashboard, you can choose to dig into a specific data set (or not), depending on your goals. On the flipside, dumping too much data on one screen will overload users and dilute the value of your dashboard’s insight.
- Draw attention to important data first
If you could only share one data set with your organization, what would it be? Now open your dashboard: Is that data set the first thing you notice? Why or why not? If so, you’re guiding users in the right direction. If not, consider rearranging your charts and graphs so users find important metrics first.
How to draw your viewers’ eyes to the right metrics:
- Placement – European-derived writing systems (like English) read from left to right, starting at the top of the page. This means your viewers are more likely to glance at the top left corner of the dashboard first. Consider putting important metrics there.
- Color – Color plays an important role in data visualization. Thanks to traffic lights, people tend to associate “green” with good and “red” with bad. On a more psychological level, blue is more often linked to melancholy than brighter colors – such as yellow – which could be associated with excitement or happiness. Use these associations when you convey data. Even more importantly, avoid contradicting viewer’s predisposed interpretations of certain colors in your reports.
- Size – It’s a pretty simple concept: Users notice bigger charts first. However, sizing is more complex than this idea. If your dashboard is too busy, users might glaze over even the largest charts and graphs. On the other hand, strategic “negative space” (the empty space between objects) can actually draw the viewer’s eye toward important data.
- Find relationships between data sets
Since interactive dashboards let you view multiple sets of data at the same time, you’ll start to see relationships between metrics you didn’t notice before. In many ways, data is like color: it can look different depending on the context. What appears to be a “dark” color in one scenario could appear “light” if you surround it with black. That’s because the surrounding color (or data) changes the context.
- Share your data easily and effectively
You can’t build a fence without the right tools, but simply having those tools won’t build a fence either. If you want to create something, you have to use the tools in your toolshed. In the same way, data is only productive when people see it and use it.
One of the major benefits to an interactive dashboard is a user-friendly, easy-to-share format. With all of your data in one place (your interactive dashboard) you can deploy it to every level of your organization quickly and easily. This way, users won’t get bogged down trying to find and interpret data because it will be ready for use at a moment’s notice.
A few quick tips for sharing data in your organization:
- Give organized access to data. If a data set influences your goals, you should have access to it.
- Encourage a “data-centric” culture in your organization, such as data-driven problem solving.
- Make sure stakeholders and employees can access data anywhere, such as their phones and computers.
- Train users so they know how to access data, filter it, find drilldowns, and use them effectively.
- Highlight success and foster accountability with a transparent data-sharing strategy.