Free Chart Icons for Your Business Intelligence Dashboard

Chart and Graph Icons

Click here for some very attractive (and free) icons for use in your business intelligence applications.

There’s nothing like cheesy icons and graphics to spoil the professional look of your dashboard. Give the icons some thought and use well.

Here’s a tip: Try to use icons from the same icon set to ensure a unified look. If you have to go outside of the set of icons, be sure to select ones that are complimentary in some way. It could be color or perspective or other trait. Just make sure that all your icons look like they belong together.

Good luck with your dashboard design.

Analytics Dashboard Design Case Study

Case studies of dashboard designs are incredibly valuable and very hard to come by. When you find such treasures, read them and revisit them again and again. As your own dashboard design skills get honed over time, you’ll see the information with new appreciation.

Here’s a really good article on “Building your App Dashboard”. It walks you through the design and construction of a web analytics dashboard:

Evolution of a Dashboard Design

Just take a look at these great graphics from the article:

Evolution of a Dashboard Design

Application Dashboard Design

This excerpt from the article:


It’s difficult to build a dashboard, without needing one first. This is why I think it’s a waste of time to build one before you have any customers. Inevitably you end up over-designing something that is impractical and showing you the wrong data. Once customers start using your application, you’ll have a much better idea what’s relevant and how often you need to see it. Even when the customers roll in, I’d still advise against building anything too fancy too soon. Here’s roughly how I see your needs and thus your dashboard evolve…

Dashboard Design Reference

Dashboard Spy Readers: This excellent design reference makes a great crash course in user interface design for business dashboard applications. I’ll show you where to download it but first let me share the table of contents:

  • Human Factors: The Theory Behind Interface Design
  • Design Principles
  • Advance Organizers
  • Affordances
  • Chunking
  • Aesthetic – Usability Effect
  • Physical Constraints
  • Psychological Constraints
  • Entry Point
  • Figure-Ground Relationship
  • Fitts’ Law
  • Hick’s Law
  • Flexibility-Usability Tradeoff
  • Navigation Hierarchies
  • Hierarchy of Needs
  • Interface Design
  • Schneiderman’s Rules for Interface Design
  • The Myth of the Metaphor
  • Images
  • Perception
  • Gestalt Laws of Organization
  • Color Theory
  • Color Applied
  • Graphic Design
  • Light Source
  • The Phi Ratio (Golden Mean)
  • Language and Fonts

Download the guide here: Dashboard Design Reference

Dashboard Design Reference

Here’s a snippet of the excellent content:

Human Factors: the Theory Behind Interface Design

The study of human interaction with technology, known as “Human Factors,” approaches design issues based on the use, rather than the potential, of the end product. By using principles determined through this study of Human Factors to guide their interface designs, designers can focus on what the client needs, rather than what the technology will allow. This is important because the control interface is the point of access to the AV system and the most critical element in determining success.

The study of Human Factors stems from three fundamental “laws”.

Moore’s Law: The growth of technology is a function of time; there will be more technology tomorrow than there is today.

Buxton’s Law of Promised Functionality: The functionality promised by technology will grow proportionally with Moore’s Law; there is going to be more functionality promised or offered tomorrow, than there is today.

God’s Law (Buxton’s interpretation): Human capacity is limited and does not increase over time; our neurons do not fire faster, our memory doesn’t increase in capacity, and we do not learn or think faster as time progresses. In fact, for individuals the opposite is true (Buxton 2001).

The interpretation of these “laws” is best described by Human Factors’ proponent and author, Alan Cooper, who concludes that when we combine a computer with anything, we create yet another computer with even greater complexity (Cooper 1999). While engineers may increase features to remain competitive, the human capacity to control technology remains constant and limited. This paper reviews some of the philosophies embraced by Human Factors’ proponents, expands upon their guidelines and extrapolates applicable elements to AV control interface design.

Check out the reference.

Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

Dashboard Design 101

Dashboard Spy Topic: Dashboard Design

Take a look at the excellent primer on UX Matters titled Dashboard Design 101. Thanks goes to Dashboard Spy reader AJ Kock of The Catalyst Blog for finding this and recommending it to me.

It’s a solid primer on the basics of dashboard design. It starts off with an introduction to business intelligence dashboards and then looks at the topic of analyzing dashboard user requirements:
Dashboard User Requirements

The post does go into the answers for each of these questions, so be sure to hop over and take a look at this solid primer on business dashboard design.

Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

Impact of Gaming on Business Dashboard Design

Today’s Dashboards By Example post examines the influence that video games may be having on data visualizations used on digital dashboards.

Advances in the design of business intelligence dashboards can come from many different places and reflect many different interests. When the Ford Motor Company and one of its design firms, Smart Design, studied the segment of customers really into getting the fuel efficiency game, they discovered that this crowd treated their passion for getting high miles per gallon (MPG) literally as a game! Their “scores”, measured by the miles per gallon calculation, were the source of bragging rights and sense of accomplishment.

Leveraging this discovery into a design element, the team incorporated a “fuel efficiency game” into the prototype dashboard for the new Ford Fusion Hybrids.

Take a look at this screenshot of the concept dashboard and pay extra attention to the right side of the image:

prototype dashboard with green vine for fuel efficiency data visualization

Notice the leaves of the vine to the right of the MPG guage? Here’s how the game works. If you drive the car in a manner that wastes gas, the vine withers and the leaves disappear. If you drive in a fuel efficient way, the vine grows and sprouts more leaves!

Here’s how it was explained by as reported by (see Ford’s New Prototype Dashboard Concept).

User research discovered how drivers get obsessed with achieving a “high score”, that is the lowest fuel usage. Therefore, fuel efficiency is represented by an “eye-catching rendering of curling vines blooming with green leaves: It’s more than a decorative element; it’s a data-visualization tool intended to change the way people drive. If a driver wastes gas by aggressively accelerating or slamming on the brakes, for example, the vine withers and leaves disappear. More leaves appear if individuals drive more economically.” Even more, this “data visualization” dashboard will be available standard on all new Ford Fusion Hybrids.

Proposing such an abstract, let’s say quite artistic (vine leaves? in a car?), data display is quite surprising. Is this the resurrection of the ambient display concept?

Interesting, no? What do you think of making a “game” out of data visualization? Doesn’t this angle make it more possible to encourage desired behaviours from your dashboard users?

Tags: Dashboard design, ambient dashboards, information visualization

Effective Dashboard Design Presentation

Dashboard Spy reader and veteran dashboard designer, Aaron Hursman, has an awesome presentation titled Effective Dashboard Design in which he not only presents his approach to designing effective dashboards, but also illustrates best practices with his own dashboard designs.

This is one of my favorite presentations on dashboard design. I’m presenting it because of a Dashboard Spy reader question dealing with the topic of how business dashboard design differs from regular web application design. I thought of Aaron’s presentation because he specifically addresses that topic.

Here is the presentation. Click on this first image to play the video.

As you will see from the above video, Aaron’s presentation starts with the requisite definition of a dashboard. He uses Stephen Few’s definition of a dashboard:

A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives, consolidated and arranged on a screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.

dashboard definition

He goes on to explain his dashboard design principles with illustrations of dashboards he has designed such as this Organix dashboard:

Organix Dashboard

He ends his presentation with some of his links to blogs and resouces related to dashboard design . Some of these resources can also be found on the Dashboard Spy’s List of Experts page.

business intelligence dashboard blogs

Tags: Dashboard Design, Best practices of business dashboard design, Effective Dashboard Design Presentation, Aaron Hursman

Swine Flu Dashboards

The dashboard design pattern has not only been fully adopted by practitioners and users in the fields of business intelligence and corporate management, but is now considered the “go-to” design solution by a multitude of people across myriad industry verticals. Anyone in any industry with a need for communicating information seems to benefit from the dashboard design pattern.

The reason why I so firmly believe this now is my observation of how quickly various organizations published dashboards depicting data related to the Swine Flu outbreak. In a very short time frame, some very sophisticated business dashboards have appeared tracking various data concerning the spread of the virus. Regardless of the goals of the organizations involved (and they are quite varied), they’ve all arrived at the dashboard design pattern as their method of information delivery.

Let’s take a look at 3 Swine Flu dashboards. There are more, but I chose these three because they represent very different approaches to business dashboards.

The first dashboard is called The Swine Flu Tracker and is a mashup dashboard with data integrated with GoogleMaps. Click on the link in the previous sentence to launch the dashboard. There is an impressive amount of interactivity on the dashboard, including the ability to animate time series so that you can see the diffusion of the Swine Flu across the world. Here is a screenshot:

Swine Flu Map Dashboard

This next dashboard is called the Swine Flu (H1N1) Dashboard and is more of a classical KPI/Metrics charts type of dashboard. Click on the “Analyze” links to filter the data by various ways.

VisualCalc Swine Flu Dashboard

And this third dashboard is a netvibes rss reader type of dashboard. It’s called the CABI Swine Flu Dashboard.

Cabi Swine Flu Dashboard

The “time-to-market” of dashboard applications these days is just astounding. What I find exciting is the diversity of design approaches and technologies that a dashboard team can apply.

The Dashboard Spy

Google Apps Status Dashboard

Dashboard Spy Design Topic: No Eye Candy for the Google Apps Dashboard.

Google’s latest dashboard allows users to monitor the availability of the various Google Apps services such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Calendar, Google Video and Google Talk. The application health status dashboard was launched on February 26, 2009 as part of Google’s effort to increase transparency and communication with users of its Google Apps services.

Let’s take a quick look at the background behind the new Google Apps Dashboard and then focus on some elements of its user interface design.

The release of the Apps Status Dashboard follows the high profile outage of Gmail two days earlier when the email service was down for almost 3 hours. An analyst reported on the public outcry:

“The problem with services like Gmail is that every outage is highlighted in the press, and rightfully so,” said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc., in an interview earlier this week. “The companies pitch these services as dependable and easy substitutes for higher-cost alternatives, but a widespread and long-lasting outage like this really hurts that claim. While some people might shrug off a failure like this, it can cause real hardships for some users and have an impact on their lives and businesses.”

In a Google Apps blog post, the rationale behind the Google Apps Status Dashboard was given as:

“We made a commitment last year to increase transparency and communication with Google Apps customers in several ways. We heard your feedback around the need for better communication when issues like Tuesday’s Gmail outage occur. The Google Apps Status Dashboard represents an additional layer of transparency that we believe will be particularly useful for our business users, and it’s also relevant to users of our consumer products.”

Here’s a screenshot of the Google Apps Status Dashboard. Use that link or click on the dashboard screenshot to get to the actual dashboard itself.

Google Apps Status Dashboard

As you see, it’s a very straight-forward dashboard design with one main table. Each row represents a Google service with some simple icons indicating application health status. The meaning of four simple icons is displayed via a legend at the bottom of the table. The left most column shows today’s status with the subsequent columns showing the status of the previous 6 days. There is an “Older” link to toggle to last week’s data. Clicking on an icon brings you to a detail page that documents issues specific to the Google App.

Here is the data for Tuesday’s Gmail outage:

Gmail Status Dashboard

And here is a dashboard screen showing problems with Google Calendar:

Google Apps Dashboard

Getting back to my original purpose for displaying this Google Apps dashboard, let’s take a look at this from the perspective of graphic design. [Click on the “More” link for that discussion]

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Interaction Design Principles

Dashboard Design Topic: Principles of Interaction Design for Dashboard Designers.

Dashboard designers and builders often back into the disciples of user interface and interaction design through necessity after a few business intelligence projects. Once they get a few dashboard projects under their belt, they realize that there are quite a few subtleties in a dashboard project beyond selecting metrics and applying information visualization best practices. Some come to the realization sooner than others. Those building a custom application with a dashboard tend to need to deal with interaction design issues sooner than those leveraging dashboard software platforms with their built-in user interface layouts and components. Either way, dashboard designers realize that they are building a user interface and need to apply fundamentals and principles that assure user satisfaction and acceptance.

Dashboard Spy readers tend to be a diverse lot with a variety of job functions and backgrounds. Even their learning styles are different. Usually we focus on the visual learners by showing numerous screenshots and image. Today’s post on Interation Design Prinicples is designed to appeal to those listening learners as well by using video content. As you know there is a Dashboard Spy site, Dashboards.TV, that collects video content regarding business intelligence dashboarding resources. From that library of videos comes today lecture on Interaction Design Principles. It’s a great resource that all dashboard designers should review.

From the O”Reilly Webcast, comes this 1 1/2 hour long presentation on the principles of interaction design. It reviews the six design patterns that are critical for designing web interfaces. The video is embedded below, but you may wish to view the high resolution version at youtube. The content is presented by Bill Scott, the director of UI engineering at netflix and follows the book titled Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions

I took the following notes during my viewing of this video:

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