Now that you’ve built your dashboard you can begin to share it. Before you hit send take a moment to consider how to optimize the impact:
No matter how smart your audience is, you should design it to be readable by anyone in the company. The basics:
- Descriptive chart titles
- Label axes
- Provide a key
- Add Definitions
Descriptive Chart Titles
Titles of charts should let the audience know what is being compared. Without a title it is unclear what they are looking at and it will take longer to process the information
We can tell we are looking at cost in USD per week and we can see multiple departments from looking at the axes labels and key, however, the purpose is unclear.
Once the title is added, the purpose of this graph is clear. We are evaluating the operations costs over time by department.
This is one of the most common pieces of context that is not included in a chart. Labels on axes should include a description and the unit for quantitative measures. If we look at the same graph as above without axes labels, we can see how it could become difficult to interpret.
While the X-axis is fairly understandable given the labels, the Y-axis labels are a bit ambiguous. The title gives us a hint that we should be seeing costs but how are the costs measured? It could be different currencies, the number of employees, or the amount of hours worked.
Adding the Y-axis label makes it clear we are looking at costs in US dollars. While labeling axes can sometimes be left off, best practice is to include it first and then remove it based on feedback from the audience.
Provide a Key
Anytime color is used to delineate groups or represent a range of values, a key is necessary for determining what the colors represent. It is impossible to determine which bar belongs to which department without the key.
The lack of a color key is also very confusing when used to encode a quantitative range. As we can see in the chart below, we can infer that some states are different than others in terms of number of users. And we can also assume darker tones mean more than lighter tones but we do not know how much more.
Once we add a key, the range of values becomes clear and the map is more useful for decision making..
While some metrics are universal such as Total Revenue, some metrics such as MQL(Marketing Qualified Lead), DAU (Daily Active Users), and others are calculated very differently from company to company. The differences are typically due to excluding some groups from being factored into the metric. In such instances, providing notes in the dashboard or easily accessible from the dashboard is critical to interpreting the information accurately.
Adding a short description beneath the metric clarifies the information that is represented and its limitations.
Emailing a dashboard is a straightforward way to sharing your work. However there are a few common mistakes you should avoid.
- Can this dashboard be shared externally (typically not)
- What level of access do people need to view the dashboard (typically they need more than you think)
- The more frequent the data is sent out the less likely it will be viewed (align the schedule with the goal of the dashboard)
You should state whatever policies are relevant in the email that includes the dashboard link. You should also set a schedule for emailing out the dashboard that is appropriate to it’s goal.
Television or monitor
Dashboards can be stylized and formatted to be displayed on televisions or other large monitors throughout an office. You can see the problem with needing to scroll here, it isn’t an option. I have seen dashboards presented on multiple television sets mounted to the walls of bullpens, office spaces, conference rooms, and lunch/break rooms.
This type of distribution is casting a fairly wide net and consumers are going to have differing opinions regarding the dashboard. Sometimes those opinions are going to be in direct opposition of one another. In the final chapter, we will discuss options to remedy that problem. The Point Person responsible for the project is probably going to be your main contact regarding audience feedback. Be prepared to make significant changes on these type of dashboards once the dashboard is released.
From a technical perspective, there are a few other concerns.
- You will want to know how the television connects to the network so you can determine how to get it on the TV in the first place.
- You may need a dedicated computer or a wireless connection through Google Chromecast, Apple TV or similar technology.
- You will want to know the television’s resolution as this will determine if you need to make any adjustments to your dashboard design to be more clear and readable.
Be prepared to test and troubleshoot these connections and displays before you officially launch the distribution.
URL from Application
Most software that helps you build Dashboard, support sharing via a URL. This software may be new to your audience. In which case, you will need to verify your audience has login credentials, some basic training, and access to the dashboard’s URL so that they can view the dashboard. Many of these platforms provide the ability to set access permissions for every dashboard. Setting these permissions appropriately on a dashboard will prevent it from being accidentally deleted or edited by another employee.
Occasionally an executive wants to receive a printed out version of the dashboard. While this can be slightly frustrating to accommodate, make sure the dashboard is delivered in the following ways.
- Do not miss the scheduled delivery time. Executives often have a lot of meetings every day and this information might be critical to them making the best decisions.
- You may not know the sensitivity of the information so after you’ve printed the dashboard put it in a folder and make sure the papers in the folder cannot be seen when the folder is closed.
- Personal Delivery
- At first, you will want to deliver the dashboard in person to keep up a necessary rapport for the feedback loop we will discuss later. Delivering it in person will always give you the opportunity to ask questions, even if the answer is short you will be able to gather some information on how the dashboard is fulfilling the executive’s needs.
Scheduling should mimic the pace at which decisions need to be made. If the decisions that are made based on a dashboard are ad hoc then do not send out scheduled emails about the dashboard instead provide them links and let them check it whenever they need to. If people need to have context every morning of what is going on to start making decisions then sending a daily email at 8:00am with the dashboard is appropriate.
Finally, if people do not need to view the dashboard to make a decision unless a metric changes dramatically, set up an alert. Most dashboarding software supports being able to set a level on a chart that once it is crossed an alert will go out to an email of your choosing. Be careful with setting these, if you choose an artificially low number people could start receiving a lot of alert emails.
Sending people dashboards on a schedule that does not match their decision making needs could result in ignoring the dashboard and not using the data to support their decisions.
- Provide enough context for a dashboard so that your audience for clarity, accuracy and efficiency (can take it in with minimal questions)
- Choose a medium that aligns with the audience’s expectations
- Use scheduling to help people make decisions not to remind them the dashboard is available.