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7 Common Business Dashboard Mistakes

        posted by , July 12, 2011

When it comes to creating business dashboards — the devil is in the details. Are you making these common dashboard mistakes?

1. Bells and Whistles

A cluttered dashboard design with too many charts and visual aids.

Initially, users are sometimes impressed by a flashy dashboard design. However, cluttered designs quickly lose their appeal — users value content over presentation.

Dashboards should allow users to consume information as quickly as possible. In many cases a simple grid design with a RAG status (red,amber,green) works best.

project dashboard

2. Comparing Apples and Oranges

Visually comparing information that is not comparable. Examples:

- comparing metrics from different categories in the same chart
- comparing percentages and counts
- comparing values that have different units
etc...

If your users notice invalid comparisons your dashboard will look unprofessional. Worse, if your users don't notice, it could lead to bad decisions.

3. Metric Stuffing

If you have 3 metrics that are relevant to your audience — that's all you need to show. Many dashboard designers feel the need to fill the page — adding irrelevant and low quality metrics to dashboards.

4. Data Misinterpretation

It is a worse case scenario — your dashboard gets the blame for a bad business decision.

Data can mean different things to different people. Leave no room for misinterpretations of your metrics and measures. Common data misinterpretations include:

- data freshness (users may assume dashboards are real time)
- units
- data definitions (ie. gross vs. net margin)
- acronyms (explain any acronyms that are not absolutely clear)

User acceptance testing is key to identifying potential data misinterpretations.

5. Out-of-the-box Promises

It is important to manage expectations regarding out-of-the-box business dashboards.

Vendors often promise out-of-the-box business dashboards with their products. The reality is that dashboards depend on data and business processes — such promises often come up short.

6. No Data Context

Sales of carrots were $1.3 million dollars this week — so what? What is the quarterly target? Are we on track?

Data does not exist in isolation — data needs to be given a business context. Context can mean targets, historical information, comparisons, industry averages etc ...

7. No Drill Down

Dashboards are one-pagers that display a great deal of high level information. It is common for users to want more details. Why not link your dashboards to related reports, documentation, dashboards and application data? Examples of drill downs include:

business dashboard drill down

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