Dashboard Metrics Status Indicators

Every dashboard needs to display the status of various KPIs and metrics, right? We’re all familiar with the red, green, yellow statuses as indicated by little icons.

Here are some of my favorites. Maybe they’ll be useful to you:

Be careful to think through what the colors mean. You may think that the meaning of green is totally clear, but here is an example where, to me at least, there is some confusion as to whether green means take an action or don’t take an action. You’ll see in this video that green actually means “No” in the context of whether or not to go ahead. Strange? Take a look.

This video is an advertisement for a device that monitors the temperature of water and displays the result in a “glanceable” manner. It’s what we call an ambient device. We’ve covered real-world dashboards and ambient devices on The Dashboard Spy previously. More on ambient devices after you watch the video.

Ambient devices are a new genre of consumer electronics characterized by their ability to be perceived at-a-glance (also called “glanceable”). Ambient devices utilize pre-attentive processing to display information: the ability for the brain to perceive information without any apparent cognitive load.

Take a look at this post on the Ambient Orb and the Ambient Dashboard:


4 thoughts on “Dashboard Metrics Status Indicators

  1. When I toured the Ontario Hydro plant at Niagra Falls in the ’60s, they told us that American and Canadian hydro plants used different meanings for the lights on their panels. One used red to mean “Danger-energized circuit” and green to mean “safe”. The other used red to mean “Circuit in abnormal state (not energized)” and green to mean “Circuit in normal state (energized)”.

    According to “The High Performance HMI Handbook” (http://www.amazon.com/High-Performance-HMI-Handbook/dp/0977896919/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284404829&sr=1-1), they really should have been using gray for the normal state, and some color (probably red) for the abnormal state, so that a normal board is very gray and boring, and any abnormal conditions really stand out.

    “Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data” (http://www.amazon.com/Information-Dashboard-Design-Effective-Communication/dp/0596100167/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284405114&sr=1-1) says the same thing about information dashboards: the dashboard should be very low-key and boring when everything is normal.

    In addition to making abnormal conditions stand out, this also makes the display more usable by people who have red-green color blindness.

    This all makes me wonder if the practice of using traffic lights to represent the conditions of things is really a good idea.

    Nonetheless, it *is* a cool icon set. Thanks for posting it.

    Lynn Grant

  2. I’ll agree with Lynn that indicators relying solely on color are fundmentally flawed. There is a significant population of color-blind people out there, and a good indicator should work for them as well. Not to mention some folks will try to print out our dashboards in black&white (gasp!).

    Challenge yourself to blend color with other indicators to satify both worlds. I’ve found its always well received and also makes your work stand out from the pack.

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