Stephen Few on Pervasive Hurdles to Effective Enterprise Dashboard Design

Enterprise dashboard design guru, Stephen Few – author of the incredible book on dashboard design – Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data, points out in his most recent enterprise dashboard article, Pervasive Hurdles to Effective Dashboard Design, that:

Most dashboard products are not able to produce dashboards that communicate effectively. This is usually due to one of more of the following three problems, which I describe and illustrate in this article:

1) Important dashboard display media are not provided

2) Display media are poorly designed for dashboard communication

3) Display media cannot be positioned on the dashboard and sized as needed

…Most dashboard software features display media that “look marvelous” but communicate poorly. If vendors invested as much time in designing display media that actually work as they invest in designing cute photo-realistic widgets that look like thermometers or automobile dashboard gauges, they would have much more to offer. They need to slow down and take the time needed to consider how dashboard display media are used and to test their effectiveness. No value is gained by making dashboard display media look like something
that they are not, especially when the result is cluttered with visual decoration that distracts from the data. If the information that people need is obscured by visual fluff, the dashboard fails.

Mr. Few convincingly argues his points with illustrations. For example, he notes that in the following enterprise dashboard screenshot – “Enormous effort was dedicated to the creation of display widgets that look like controls that you might find on an old electronic control board, such as one for mixing sound. Most of the measures were designed to look like LED (liquid emitting diode) meters, with tall stacks of green, yellow, or red light horizontal bands of light set in a framework of burnished metal. Old audio mixers used LED meters because that was the state of the art, the best that technology could offer at the time, but a computer screen is capable of displays that are light years beyond and much easier to read than LED meters.”

Is that great writing, or what? I love it! Writing so passionately about business intelligence display techniques. You owe it to yourself to subscribe to Stephen Few’s articles, and everything else this talented man produces, for that matter. Here is the screen:

sales order throughput led KPI indicators

Another example given is the following critique of the very popular Crystal Xcelsius flash-based charting displays:

Hard to Read KPI Pie Chart

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  1. Pingback: Sales Throughput Dashboard with LED Meters

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