The “art of dashboards”? Sounds trite and a stretch, but let the Dashboard Spy explain. We’ve heard it said that art is the expression of ideas, right? That it is a form of communication between people. One in which the artist understands and uses to his or her advantage the sensibilities of the audience to both inform opinion and shape ideas.
Well, that certainly sounds like what we do every day with business intelligence, doesn’t it? Business dashboards have the ability to not only to report metrics and KPIs, but to do so in a manner that shapes opinion, influences action and strikes varying tones of urgency. BI metrics may be cut and dry (and that is a debatable statement), but the communication of the meaning of the metrics is an art.
Business dashboarding is a highly visual medium. One that relies on basic human perceptions and principles of cognition. It is also an information-dense medium, in which the nuances of information presentation are tied closely with the ability of the dashboard designers to competently capture and express the metrics and their meaning. A screen full of icons, red/green/yellow indicators, pie charts, bar graphs, blinking alerts and data tables may only obfuscate the true message when presented wrong. We’ve all seen poorly designed dashboards that assault the business user to the point of numbness.
The reason I’m on this riff on the art of dashboards is because of some very interesting materials that a Dashboards By Example reader shared with me. Want to see some artifacts of a dashboard design team that clearly knows the art of expression through a business dashboard? Thanks to Andres, the solution architect at UberBI, a start-up company that produces business dashboards, we have this look at some wireframes, screenshots and even an interactive demo.
Take a look at this great hand-drawn wireframe:
And here’s an example of a final look and feel of the interface:
Gorgeous work, isn’t it?
We’ll detail some of the project infromation but first, let’s take a look at more project artifacts:
Here is another wireframe. This shows another screen that the user gets after clicking on a top level tab.
I think you’ll agree that even these sketches are beautiful in themselves. They capture requirements and show clarity of layout arrived after much discovery of the client’s needs. I can feel the “art of the dashboard” when I study these mockups.
Here is another final dashboard screenshot:
Note that the hover-over text on the map portlet shows the region and the corresponding amount.
The UberUI demo can be found at http://demo.uberbi.net. Try it and you’ll see that it is a flash-based dashboard.
Here is some additional project info that came with the submission of this dashboard to The Dashboard Spy:
UberUI: Our dashboard design process starts with a storyboard from our design team, then our developers prepare the wireframes and we present diferent options to a focus group and some external advisors from Fortune 500 companies.
Attached you’ll find the first storyboard of one of our projects. This storyboard was made during a meeting with one of our clients, and received by our design team to start the process.
We are a start up company located in Mississauga, Ontario. UberBI’s vision is to provide highly interactive dashboard solutions to small and mid market organizations. We are currently in the process of developing several add-ins for SMB ERP solutions, the objectives is to create a business logic layer that will include ETL processes and Vertical KPI libraries that can be easily replicated from client to client.
All our components are 100% user experience oriented, about the back office technology, the data sources can be from MS SQL to SAP and the front end from a intranet dashboard to a hosted solution.
I wish these guys luck. With design deliverables like these examples, they certainly have a grasp of what it takes to design a slick looking dashboard.
Additionally, however, let’s all remember that the “art of the dashboard” lies not only in the look and feel, but in capturing the nuances of communication within the organization. That includes the principles of usability, graphic design and information visualization clarity.
Dashboard Spy readers: Would you like to show me your wireframes? Send them in.
Tags: Dashboard Design, Wireframes, mockups, storyboards, The Art of the Dashboard, Business Dashboards
PS. Seems like quite a heated discussion is brewing. Take a look at the Dashboard Spy reader comments below.