Analytics Dashboard

    
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Problem Summary

Users need a concise, high-level overview of complex information sets (such as key metrics) that represents the status of important organizational entities, processes, or activities. This overview enables users to monitor and identify areas that require further investigation or intervention.






Usages

    Use an analytics dashboard when:

    • Information related to a particular organizational function or role needs to be monitored regularly, possibly in real time.
    • Information sources represent critical metrics that must be understood at a glance.
    • Information sources are diverse and complex, requiring some degree of summarization or aggregation to be comprehensible.
    • Deviations from expected or desired values or thresholds are particularly important and require immediate investigation or action.
    • Optimal selection of key information and data is specific to a particular individual or role (or may be customized by the end user).
    • Users require a view of the overall trends for key metrics, providing visibility into the relationship between key values and trends.
    • Users need access to the above functionality without building a complex query.
    • Users need access to the above functionality without undergoing extensive training or familiarization with the system.

Constraints and Challenges

Consider these issues when using an analytics dashboard:

  • The selection of a particular default set of metrics and content may not be optimal for all users.
  • The presentation of high-level summaries may limit the initial visibility of certain lower-level metrics.
  • The presention of key information and data within a finite screen space may require the omission of some metrics.
  • The reliability of real-time updates or related latency issues may compromise the effectiveness of the dashboard.
  • Meaningful time frames for summarization and analysis may vary among key metrics.

Solution Elements

  1. Identify the primary user segment that the dashboard will serve and develop an appropriate strategy for dealing with variations in information needs, business goals, and interaction patterns among those users.
 
  1. Identify the data and metrics that are most relevant to the highest priority user segments. Organize the content and dashboard elements into meaningful groups so that connections between related elements are immediately apparent.
 
  1. Use size, position, orientation, and so on to indicate the relative importance of each content element.
 
  1. Optionally, consider placing the most important elements front and center to increase their prominence over other dashboard elements.
 
  1. Use summaries and overviews to distill and condense key information.
 
  1. Use interactive and actionable information summaries and metrics when possible so that the transition from a user's perception of an issue to the action required to investigate or resolve the issue is as direct and immediate as possible.
 
  1. To complement information summaries presented by the dashboard, provide users with the abiity to drill into more detailed information if further levels of detail exist.
 
  1. Draw attention to exceptions or important changes so that the users can immediately direct their attention to noteworthy deviations from expected or desired values.
 
  1. Differentiate between those elements that are of continuous relevance or interest (such as key summary metrics and trends) and those elements that are ephemeral in nature and may require more immediate and focused investigation and action (such as alerts and updates).
 
  1. Select UI elements to maximize the effective communication of information and enable users to quickly and intuitively grasp key data points, relationships, patterns, and trends.
 
  1. Use recognizable and meaningful reference points and benchmarks to provide useful context and baselines in charts and visualizations. This information enables users to evaluate the status and meaning of data points and visualizations of key metrics.
 
  1. Provide clear indicators of the default time frames applied for varied dashboard elements, such as time spans. Additionally, indicate how recently the application updated information, such as the date and time.
 
  1. Avoid metaphorical or skeuomorphic elements and visual treatments, such as gauges, traffic lights, and linear meters.
 

Cautions

Use of metaphorical display mechanisms, such as radial gauges, traffic lights, and meters can compromise usability and readability.
 

Rationale

A well-designed dashboard enables users to effectively engage with and derive insight from substantial amounts of relevant organizational information and data.