0
HOW TO MASTER THE ART 
OF DASHBOARD DESIGN 
APRIL 2013 
@jenveese @brennertwit
About Merkle 
• A customer relationship marketing agency 
• Largest privately-held agency in the US 
• 1,800 employees, in...
What we’ll cover today 
Best 
&ps 
for 
dashboards 
and 
visualiza&ons 
Things 
you 
should 
know 
about 
dashboards 
@jen...
FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW 
ABOUT DASHBOARDS 
@jenveese @brennertwit
5 Things you should know about 
dashboards 
• It’s not a dashboard unless it… 
– Has strong visual elements 
– Is focused ...
TEN BEST TIPS FOR DASHBOARD 
DESIGN 
@jenveese @brennertwit
10 Best tips for dashboards & 
visualizations 
1. Separate KPIs, 
diagnostic metrics 
and smoke alarms 
2. Select the most...
Separate KPIs, diagnostic metrics and smoke 
alarms 
Key Performance 
Indicator 
A business outcome 
or measure of success...
Select the most meaningful metric 
Create a new metric when you want to: 
• Highlight the relationship between two metrics...
Provide context by making comparisons 
How does the metric compare to a target, 
benchmark or previous time period? 
How d...
Include insights, not narration 
Don’t just make observations based on the visualizations! 
Add valuable insight by answer...
Location, location, location 
@jenveese @brennertwit 12 
Sample Dashboard Layout 
LAYOUT
Location, location, location 
• Place your KPIs at 
the top 
• Place your least 
important 
information in the 
bottom rig...
Location, location, location 
• Place your KPIs at 
the top 
• Place your least 
important 
information in the 
bottom rig...
Location, location, location 
• Place your KPIs at 
the top 
• Place your least 
important 
information in the 
bottom rig...
Use size to show relative importance 
• KPIs should use a larger font size than diagnostic 
metrics or smoke alarms 
• Sim...
Select the right visualization for the job 
@jenveese @brennertwit 17 
BAR 
Comparisons & Rankings 
PIE 
Composition 
SCAT...
Eliminate distractions & superfluous detail 
@jenveese @brennertwit 18 
VISUALIZATION 
S 
• Colored backgrounds 
• Garrish...
A few tips about color… 
• Things that are the same should be the same color 
• Use a neutral color palette 
• Use variati...
Be deliberate about axis values 
• Set maximum value high enough that it won’t change 
from period to period 
– Guideline ...
Ensure your labels can be read easily 
• Don’t make them smaller than 8 pt (usually) 
• Don’t rotate them at an angle 
• A...
Example #1 
@jenveese @brennertwit 22 
If the analyst 
wanted to 
compare 
completion 
rates by product 
category, this is...
Example #1 
@jenveese @brennertwit 23 
The values in a bar graph 
should be sorted. 
Now, clean it up and 
duplicate for e...
Example #1 
@jenveese @brennertwit 24 
Much better, 
but wait… 
How do you 
compare overall 
performance?
Example #1 
If you want to compare overall 
performance, use a measure of 
overall performance. 
@jenveese @brennertwit 25
Example #2 
@jenveese @brennertwit 26 
Let’s make this 
time series data. 
There’s still a lot 
to change. 
Better, but it...
Example #2 
@jenveese @brennertwit 27 
To make 
comparisons, 
use a different 
visualization.
SIX CRITERIA FOR SELECTING 
A DASHBOARD TOOL 
@jenveese @brennertwit
Six Tool Selection Criteria 
No Data – No Dashboards 
Design Before You Develop 
Acknowledge Limitations 
Who is Going to ...
No Data – No Dashboards 
Data Sources 
• Where is your data coming from? 
Data Volume 
• How much data do you have and whe...
Design Before You Develop 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
31 
Dashboard Speed 
Research methods to make 
tools run faster. 
Graph...
Acknowledge Limitations 
Honestly inventory and review your constraints. 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
32 
Skill Set 
• What to...
Who Is Going to Use It? 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
33 
Executive Support 
Daily Meetings 
Quarterly Sessions 
Operational De...
Easy Access is Defined by the User 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
34 
List 
of 
Users 
Tool Use 
Mac PC 
Phone 
Tablet 
Email Al...
Great Dashboards are Continually 
Optimized 
What might be 
coming next? 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
35 
Idea 
Design 
Create...
List Your Secrets to Success 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
36 
Element Item Tool A Tool B Tool C 
Data 
Teradata Link 
Real Tim...
Find Your Best Match for Your Unique Needs 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
37 
Element Item Tool A Tool B Tool C 
Data 
Teradata ...
Often, What You Already Have 
Use What’s Available 
Knowledgeable Authors 
Established Training 
Use What’s Familiar 
Exec...
FOUR DASHBOARD TOOLS 
COMPARED 
@jenveese @brennertwit
Everyone has an Opinion 
• Some are formal: 
– Gartner Quadrant 
• Some are informal: 
– Someone is updating their BI blog...
4 Dashboard Tools Compared 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
41 
Our Business Intelligence analysts have the luxury of working 
wit...
Business Objects 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
42 
Well Established 
Owned by SAP 
Security 
Multiple Options 
Enterprise Tool ...
Cognos 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
43 
Well Established 
Owned by IBM 
Security 
Multiple Options 
Enterprise Tool 
Tight Int...
MicroStrategy 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
44 
Well Established 
One of the first true 
BI companies 
Security 
Multiple Optio...
Tableau 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
45 
Emerging 
Pre-IPO Company 
Security 
Transparent 
Personal Tool 
Dashboards for all 
...
It’s All About Balance 
It is critical to balance substance, style, and tool choice. 
@jenveese @brennertwit 
46 
The qual...
JENNIFER VEESENMEYER 
Vice President, Digital 
Analytics 
443.542.4611 
612.356.4191 (cell) 
@jenveese 
jveesenmeyer@merkl...
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Transcript of "How to Master the Art of Dashboard Design"

  1. 1. HOW TO MASTER THE ART OF DASHBOARD DESIGN APRIL 2013 @jenveese @brennertwit
  2. 2. About Merkle • A customer relationship marketing agency • Largest privately-held agency in the US • 1,800 employees, including ~300 statisticians and analysts • Manage 1.6+ petabytes of customer data @jenveese @brennertwit 2
  3. 3. What we’ll cover today Best &ps for dashboards and visualiza&ons Things you should know about dashboards @jenveese @brennertwit 3 Criteria for selec&ng a dashboard tool Dashboard tools compared
  4. 4. FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DASHBOARDS @jenveese @brennertwit
  5. 5. 5 Things you should know about dashboards • It’s not a dashboard unless it… – Has strong visual elements – Is focused on key performance indicators (KPIs) • It’s not a good dashboard unless it… – Provides context for the KPIs – Fits on one screen or page • Substance and style are equally important • An automated dashboard is better than a perfect one • Executive dashboards are highly visible, so a well-designed one can boost your career @jenveese @brennertwit 5
  6. 6. TEN BEST TIPS FOR DASHBOARD DESIGN @jenveese @brennertwit
  7. 7. 10 Best tips for dashboards & visualizations 1. Separate KPIs, diagnostic metrics and smoke alarms 2. Select the most meaningful metric 3. Provide context by making comparisons 4. Include insights, not narration 5. Location, location, location 6. Use size to show relative importance @jenveese @brennertwit 7 7. Select the right visualization for the job 8. Eliminate distractions and superfluous detail 9. Be deliberate about axis values 10. Ensure your labels are legible
  8. 8. Separate KPIs, diagnostic metrics and smoke alarms Key Performance Indicator A business outcome or measure of success Diagnostic Metric A metric used to identify which lever(s) will have the most impact on the KPIs Smoke Alarm A metric that no one pays attention to unless it suddenly goes way up or way down @jenveese @brennertwit 8 SUBSTANC E A metric is not a KPI unless… • It measures performance against an objective • Someone is accountable for that performance • There is context for whether the value is good or bad This is important because each type of metric will be in a different place on the dashboard
  9. 9. Select the most meaningful metric Create a new metric when you want to: • Highlight the relationship between two metrics (i.e. Visits per Visitor) • Provide important context (i.e. Revenue per Visit) • Normalize the data (i.e. Leads per Day) @jenveese @brennertwit 9 SUBSTANC E
  10. 10. Provide context by making comparisons How does the metric compare to a target, benchmark or previous time period? How does the metric change over time? Where does the item appear in a hierarchy? How are two numbers related? What are the constituent parts? @jenveese @brennertwit 10 SUBSTANC E Where do the items fall across a range?
  11. 11. Include insights, not narration Don’t just make observations based on the visualizations! Add valuable insight by answering questions: – Do you notice any trends? – Are there any anomalies? – Is anything different than you would have expected? – Why should I care? What are the implications? – What do you recommend based on this data? @jenveese @brennertwit 11 SUBSTANC E
  12. 12. Location, location, location @jenveese @brennertwit 12 Sample Dashboard Layout LAYOUT
  13. 13. Location, location, location • Place your KPIs at the top • Place your least important information in the bottom right Most important metrics @jenveese @brennertwit 13 LAYOUT Least important metrics
  14. 14. Location, location, location • Place your KPIs at the top • Place your least important information in the bottom right • Group related metrics together Traffic-related Conversion -related @jenveese @brennertwit 14 LAYOUT
  15. 15. Location, location, location • Place your KPIs at the top • Place your least important information in the bottom right • Group related metrics together • Align to a grid @jenveese @brennertwit 15 LAYOUT
  16. 16. Use size to show relative importance • KPIs should use a larger font size than diagnostic metrics or smoke alarms • Similar graphs should be a similar size • Font size should follow a hierarchy: – Dashboard name – Objectives or section titles – Chart titles – Axis values – Chart subtitles @jenveese @brennertwit 16 LAYOUT Sample KPI Block
  17. 17. Select the right visualization for the job @jenveese @brennertwit 17 BAR Comparisons & Rankings PIE Composition SCATTER Distribution & Correlation COLUMN Comparisons LINE Trends STACKED AREA Alt to stacked column VISUALIZATION S
  18. 18. Eliminate distractions & superfluous detail @jenveese @brennertwit 18 VISUALIZATION S • Colored backgrounds • Garrish color (use a neutral palette instead) • Third dimension • Excessive axis values • Zeros and decimals places • Gap width (eg, columns should be wider than the space between them) • Gridlines (usually) • Don’t use decimal points unless the difference is statistically significant • Don’t be afraid to create an “other” category • Don’t use stacked columns unless composition is important to know • Don’t use a large graph when a sparkline will do
  19. 19. A few tips about color… • Things that are the same should be the same color • Use a neutral color palette • Use variations in saturation rather than in color (light to dark) • Don’t rely solely on stoplight colors (red/yellow/green) to show bad/caution/good • Don’t use stoplight colors unless you intend to send a message about bad/caution/good We use color to make our visualizations more meaningful, not to make them pretty! @jenveese @brennertwit 19
  20. 20. Be deliberate about axis values • Set maximum value high enough that it won’t change from period to period – Guideline - 25% larger than your best guess at the highest value over time • Usually set minimum value at 0 to avoid giving the appearance that the difference between values is more significant than it really is • Visualizations that will be compared should have the same axis values • Increment axis units by numbers that people commonly count by (2, 5, 10, 25, etc.) @jenveese @brennertwit 20 VISUALIZATION S
  21. 21. Ensure your labels can be read easily • Don’t make them smaller than 8 pt (usually) • Don’t rotate them at an angle • Always use a sans serif font • Select a font that is legible at a small size • Increase legibility in a table by reducing font size and increasing row height @jenveese @brennertwit 21 VISUALIZATION S
  22. 22. Example #1 @jenveese @brennertwit 22 If the analyst wanted to compare completion rates by product category, this is the wrong visualization. A bar graph would be more effective.
  23. 23. Example #1 @jenveese @brennertwit 23 The values in a bar graph should be sorted. Now, clean it up and duplicate for each step.
  24. 24. Example #1 @jenveese @brennertwit 24 Much better, but wait… How do you compare overall performance?
  25. 25. Example #1 If you want to compare overall performance, use a measure of overall performance. @jenveese @brennertwit 25
  26. 26. Example #2 @jenveese @brennertwit 26 Let’s make this time series data. There’s still a lot to change. Better, but it doesn’t help me compare product categories.
  27. 27. Example #2 @jenveese @brennertwit 27 To make comparisons, use a different visualization.
  28. 28. SIX CRITERIA FOR SELECTING A DASHBOARD TOOL @jenveese @brennertwit
  29. 29. Six Tool Selection Criteria No Data – No Dashboards Design Before You Develop Acknowledge Limitations Who is Going to Use It? Easy Access is Defined by the User Great Dashboards are Continually Optimized @jenveese @brennertwit 29
  30. 30. No Data – No Dashboards Data Sources • Where is your data coming from? Data Volume • How much data do you have and when does it arrive? Automation • What tools integrate with your automation strategy? @jenveese @brennertwit 30
  31. 31. Design Before You Develop @jenveese @brennertwit 31 Dashboard Speed Research methods to make tools run faster. Graphic Arts Find someone with a detailed eye to help you out. Tools cannot improve design. Budget Identify what tool components you need and what they cost.
  32. 32. Acknowledge Limitations Honestly inventory and review your constraints. @jenveese @brennertwit 32 Skill Set • What tools constrain your creativity? IT Architecture • What company tool standards are negotiable? Don’t guess: Try before you buy
  33. 33. Who Is Going to Use It? @jenveese @brennertwit 33 Executive Support Daily Meetings Quarterly Sessions Operational Decisions Tactical Planning Global Reach Which Tools Support Multiple Languages? What Cultural Aspects Must You Respect? Aspiring Executives They May Actually Use It the Most
  34. 34. Easy Access is Defined by the User @jenveese @brennertwit 34 List of Users Tool Use Mac PC Phone Tablet Email Alerts NON -Tool Use Printed Copies Executive Summaries Security: Who Can See it? How do they login?
  35. 35. Great Dashboards are Continually Optimized What might be coming next? @jenveese @brennertwit 35 Idea Design Create Discuss How are ideas prioritized? Who will enhance the dashboards? Who will validate the changes?
  36. 36. List Your Secrets to Success @jenveese @brennertwit 36 Element Item Tool A Tool B Tool C Data Teradata Link Real Time Frequency Design List of Design Elements Creation & Enhancements Non-Technical Authors Access LDAP Security PC & Mac Mobile Online Email Alerts
  37. 37. Find Your Best Match for Your Unique Needs @jenveese @brennertwit 37 Element Item Tool A Tool B Tool C Data Teradata Link ● ● ○ Real Time Frequency ◑ ◕ ◕ Design List of Design Elements ◑ ● ● Creation & Enhancements Non-Technical Authors ● ● ◕ Access LDAP Security ◔ ● ● PC & Mac ● ● ● Mobile ◑ ◔ ● Online ● ● ● Email Alerts ◕ ● ◕
  38. 38. Often, What You Already Have Use What’s Available Knowledgeable Authors Established Training Use What’s Familiar Executives may already be used to something. IT Coordination Already Approved Likely Low Costs It is OK to select something different. It is all about the User Experience. @jenveese @brennertwit 38
  39. 39. FOUR DASHBOARD TOOLS COMPARED @jenveese @brennertwit
  40. 40. Everyone has an Opinion • Some are formal: – Gartner Quadrant • Some are informal: – Someone is updating their BI blog right now. • The market constantly changes – New Versions – New Products – New Companies @jenveese @brennertwit 40
  41. 41. 4 Dashboard Tools Compared @jenveese @brennertwit 41 Our Business Intelligence analysts have the luxury of working with multiple tools. Here’s what we think for Executive Dashboards: Actual Example For a specific project
  42. 42. Business Objects @jenveese @brennertwit 42 Well Established Owned by SAP Security Multiple Options Enterprise Tool Strong IT Integration Dashboards Strong Ad-hoc Environment Access Multiple Options Visualization Traditional Options
  43. 43. Cognos @jenveese @brennertwit 43 Well Established Owned by IBM Security Multiple Options Enterprise Tool Tight Integration with Unica & SPSS Dashboards Strong Ad-hoc Environment Access Multiple Options Visualization Traditional Options
  44. 44. MicroStrategy @jenveese @brennertwit 44 Well Established One of the first true BI companies Security Multiple Options Enterprise Tool Strong IT Integration Dashboards Excellent Performance Access Multiple Options Visualization Moderate Options
  45. 45. Tableau @jenveese @brennertwit 45 Emerging Pre-IPO Company Security Transparent Personal Tool Dashboards for all Dashboards Strong Components Access Limited Options Visualization Expansive Options
  46. 46. It’s All About Balance It is critical to balance substance, style, and tool choice. @jenveese @brennertwit 46 The quality of your dashboards speaks directly to your credibility as an analyst.
  47. 47. JENNIFER VEESENMEYER Vice President, Digital Analytics 443.542.4611 612.356.4191 (cell) @jenveese jveesenmeyer@merkleinc.com @jenveese @brennertwit 47 CARL BRENNER Director, Business Intelligence 208.597.3991 (cell) @brennertwit cbrenner@merkleinc.com
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