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The Art and Science of Effective Dashboard Design

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

Dashboards can be a powerful way to communicate insights. All too often dashboard potential is not fully realized as a result of little thought being put into the final design or chosen data visualizations. By merely refining your dashboard design, you can truly enjoy the full power that lies within Power BI.

Effective dashboard design is both an art and a science. Don’t get caught up in the pizazz, razzle and dazzle of any data visualization just because it is slick, colorful, or you just happen to like the way that it looks. In reality, your creative delivery of information may be confusing, distracting, miscommunicating, or unintentionally undermining dashboard value. Anyone that presents data should strive to make it easy for their target audience to comprehend. A few simple design changes can make a huge difference in context and clarity. Take a look for yourself in this before and after example of not so good and good design.

Not so good

“This “Not So Good” example suffers from a lot of common design mistakes. First of all it has too much information for the audience to quickly understand.”

The inconsistent Segment colors within charts will likely be confusing. The column chart x-axis quarter labels do not align to the shown monthly values. Single total numbers do not have any context with regards to trends. The pie chart fails to communicate the negative Enterprise results. The Manufacturing Price line chart is way too small and has no legend. The Discount Bands bar chart is also quite small with unnecessary labels. Lastly the table with the scroll bar in the middle of the screen does not add any value. The scroll bar reduces dashboard usability. See if you can spot even more issues with this dashboard design.


“In the Good example, we have reduced information overload, noise and confusion by selecting a few appropriate data visualization types and adding context.”

This time all information nicely fits within the screen without scrolling. The Segment colors are now consistent within the bar and scatter charts to improve clarity. Single total numbers have improved titles to describe reporting time period and are accompanied by sparklines to show trend context. The bar chart clearly shows the negative Enterprise results now. The scatter chart adds perspective at a glance with regards to the Product performance within a Segment. We have also added a date under the dashboard title to help the audience understand when this information was last updated. Even though there is still room for improvement, this example showcases how different design decisions enable you to be far more effective in communicating insights using.

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