Best Practices for Creating Useful Dashboards

What Makes a Dashboard Great (CCURV)

What makes a dashboard great (CCURV)

Creating a successful dashboard can be easy.  When you understand the key tenets for a dashboard to be successful the road becomes even easier.  Dashboards should answer a central question, and should do so using the acronym CCURV or “curve” as a mnemonic device to remember Clear, Concise, Useful, Relevant, and Visually appealing.

Clear

Clarity is important.  In our world today a scarce resource is attention span.  The scary part is that it isn’t that people can’t read or understand something it is that they choose not to.  TL;DR is a thing, even though it shouldn’t be. Business information users, or consumers of business data, largely don’t choose to have a short attention span but have to react on a faster basis.  They need to be moving faster than their market is. In order to assist them with that, clear representations of important data points are crucial to the process. The more that charts on a dashboard need explanation or definition, the less the dashboard is an effective intelligence tool.  Remember, speed to insight is key and having to read definitions or seek out the author of a report for further explanation is counterproductive to that goal.

Concise

Scrolling is your enemy.  Having information on a dashboard be hidden “below the fold” or below the bottom of the screen can usually mean that there is too much information on that dashboard and it cannot be easily consumed.  Sometimes it is impossible to avoid, but it should be avoided as much as possible. One of the main benefits of having a dashboard is using it to see multiple data points and processing that information together so having as concise a dashboard as possible is of utmost importance.  Users need to process the dashboard data points either at one time or in rapid succession to see the entire picture that is being painted by this dashboard.

Useful

Thou shall not waste space.  Understanding the reality that space on a dashboard is at a premium, you should venture to only include useful information to the central tenet of the dashboard.  Data points that are a necessity to answering the central question of the dashboard should be included. All other information, including drill down information that further explains a certain metric in detail should not appear on this dashboard and if necessary could be provided as a backup report or dashboard.  

Relevant

This is a big one.  Information presented on a dashboard should have some relevance to the other metrics.  They should be related in some way. If not directly they should be individual pieces that answer the central questions.  remember, in our efforts to present information on a dashboard we are answering a central question and that central question should be answered by pieces of data that have some relativity.  Also, data points that are related or tell similar pieces of information should be next to or nearby each other on your dashboard.

Visually appealing

We live in a world that is constantly attempting to get your attention, and simply put boring or unappealing things do not get readers attention.  The human eye responds to patterns, our eyes are built to be pattern recognizing machines, and the eye-brain combo is the best pattern recognizing machine in the world.  So having relevant data points be presented in a consistent and matter with colors representing the same metric or type of metric from chart to chart are high on our importance meter.   That being said, soothing or appealing color combinations and fonts and font sizes are equally important to the data being presented.

Conclusion

Taking into account the acronym CCURV or “curve” to remember key facets can help you in creating a useful and successful dashboard.  Be clear, concise, useful, relevant, and visually appealing and your dashboard will have a much easier road to success.