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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Bling My Dashboard

Here’s a proposal for a new dashboarding technique that lets your dashboard users control the amount of “eye candy” that they see on thier dashboards and scorecards. How about a “bling” button that you can use to “turn up” the graphic volume of your business dashboards? Imagine being able to toggle back and forth between a minimally styled chart and a more lavish approach to graphing?

The idea comes from SAS dashboarding guru, Robert Allison, who has done some unique work in this area. Take a look at these two versions of his Oil Refinery Production dashboard. Note the “Bling Button” at the top of these dashboards that you use to toggle the amount of eye candy. Robert’s commentary follows the charts.

This is the dashboard eye candy version of the graphs:

Business Intelligence Dashboard with Eye Candy

If the eye candy is too much for you, just click the “Un-bling My Dashboard” button!

Dashboard without bling

Robert sent in the following as an explanation. Click on the “Read More” link to view the rest of this post.
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