5 Key Principles of a Good Dashboard Design

5 Key Principles of a Good Dashboard Design

Businesses have adopted the term ‘dashboard’ from automobiles. The use of dashboards, from complex stock trading applications to the front panel of a car, is quite similar. Each industry has used innovative dashboard designs to suit their business needs. For instance, vehicle dashboards let you check your driving speed, how much fuel you have in your tank, and so on. They even highlight the engine check symbol as a warning in case of an issue with the engine. A good dashboard design should be able to effectively and quickly communicate information to the user.

The function of a dashboard in businesses is to give ongoing outcomes by amassing and extracting value from all the collected data, known as key performance indicators (KPIs). It rearranges your data into manageable chunks of visual data that permits you to see how you are doing and where you must improve. Dashboards have been continuously evolving, and to create an impressive dashboard design, it’s essential to be aware of the latest design trends.

When used appropriately, dashboards can assist you in making an informed decision that affects business execution. Before diving further into the five principles, here’s a look at the types of dashboard designs.

Three Types of Dashboard Designs

The purpose of a dashboard is to drive activity. In this data-driven world, numerous dashboard types are changing the way effective businesses process insights. A healthy way to deal with your business development is to convey the right information to suitable individuals. Otherwise, long-term success can be jeopardized and expensive.

That is the reason why choosing the right type of dashboard can bring enduring and financially profitable results.

Here are the three types of dashboards:

Operational Dashboard

The operational dashboard helps users in carrying out actions. Financial trading apps are examples of the operational dashboard. It not only shows information about financial assets but also enables users to perform operations like buying and selling stocks. This type of dashboard exists in Trading apps that allow users to track asset prices in real-time. These apps place their buy or sell orders quickly and with minimum effort.

Operational dashboard

Analytical Dashboard

The analytical dashboard displays large volumes of data in a way that helps users interpret the information. They are typically used in reporting, business intelligence, and analytics applications, where the purpose is to compile these large volumes of complex data to allows users to understand.

Google Analytics, a tool used to analyze site traffic, is an excellent example of an analytical dashboard.

Strategic Dashboard

A strategic dashboard is a reporting tool for monitoring the long-term company strategy with the help of critical success factors. This dashboard is usually tricky in its creation and provides an enterprise-wide impact on a business. It is mainly used by senior-level management. It tracks performance against your KPIs to better align actions with strategy.

As a result, a strategic dashboard tends to summarize performance over set time frames: month, quarter, or year.

Principles of Dashboard Design

Designing a good dashboard can be a challenge for designers. Here are a few principals that designers can follow to create useful, usable, and delightful dashboards.

1. Anticipating the User’s Needs and Goals

All the core principles of good UX Design apply to the design of dashboards. Asking and replying questions like how a dashboard will be used and what information does the user need, helps identify the information that is meaningful for your dashboard.

2. Deciding which Type of Dashboard the User Needs

If your objective is to present information, you need to use analytical dashboards. If you also want the user to take some action(s) based on data, an operational dashboard is more suitable.

However, irrespective of the type of dashboard, keep in mind that a well-designed dashboard will convey the right information without inducing cognitive overload.

3. Choosing Metrics that Matter

For analytical dashboards, deciding the right metrics relevant to the dashboard’s purpose is the key. Decisions like what kind of data to select and how to present it should be grounded in a precise knowledge of user needs and context. Including irrelevant metrics, can make the dashboard look cluttered, and the user can quickly lose interest.

To determine which metrics earn a spot on your dashboard, consider how much detail does the user need. You should provide easy ways for the user to dig deeper into the data in case they need to.

4. Telling a story

Dashboards should provide a snapshot of what is going on and prioritize the information for what the users need to see. All the metrics you choose should combine to tell a holistic story to the user.

To ensure that the information effectively slides into the viewer’s brain, here are the story-like features that you can include in dashboards:

  • Set the Plan: Like every good story, the plot should be clear, and problems should be highlighted with a prefigured result. You have to ask yourself the right data analysis questions to explore the data insights. Before presenting the storyboard, make sure who your target audience is and what’s the unique content that you are offering.
  • Concentrate on Important Elements and Themes: Don’t try to have a thorough record of everything that occurred. Your dashboard story must include a beginning, a middle, and an end with all the right details. You can add colorful charts and graphs with a customized background to create a cohesive experience for your audience.
  • Offer Recognizable Figures to save Readers’ Time: For dashboards, this implies terms, graphics, metrics, and metaphors that are recognizable within the association.
  • Levels of detail: A few components of the story can elevate the whole experience; different subtitles give bits of knowledge and keep up the interest.

5. Using the Right Data Visualizations Tools

Data visualization for dashboard design

For analytical dashboards, selecting the appropriate kind of data visualization is imperative. Data visualization tools help organize data in a manner that is easily understood. Cluttering your charts with superfluous data labels is only useless and confusing.

Here are a few tips that should help you effectively use data visualization.

  • Pie charts: Use these to show comparative information.
  • Bar charts: Use these for comparative information, but with more variables.
  • Graphs: Use these for measuring trends over time.
  • Tables: Use these for sorting various variables; for helping organize and communicate meaning.

The Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception

Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception

For perfecting the skill of creating exceptional dashboard design, it is essential to learn the basic Gestalt principles of visual perception, apart from exploring how to convey actionable information in a context vividly.

Gaining a sound understanding of these principles can enable you to devise a better dashboard structure, besides making your charts more straightforward to translate.

a) Proximity: It means the tendency to see multiple elements as groups when positioned close to one another. For example, we can visually end up distinguishing the clusters on a scatter diagram by merely grouping the dots that lie firmly.

b) Similarity: It is our brain’s natural response to associate the elements that appear like one another (e.g., in shape, orientation, size, or color). For example, when looking at a color-coded bar chart, readers can easily associate the bars that have been presented in the same color, even if there is no evident mention of their grouping.

c) Enclosure: If a border surrounds a series of elements or objects, they are considered a group. For example, if a scatter diagram exhibits reference lines that seem to be surrounding the objects, say, between 40 and 50 percent, our brain will tend to consider them a cluster.

d) Closure: If we see a figure that seems incomplete, we form a perception that it is a closed structure. Retaking the example of borders, even if we do away with the boundaries that enclose a bar chart, our brain will lead us to consider the axes as the lines that isolate the graph and eradicate the need for extra lines.

e) Continuity: We perceive several objects aligned closely as a continuous body. For example, if the eye starts following an upward trend line of dots, it will continue to do so until it encounters another object that breaks this continuity.

f) Connection: When we see objects connected by any uniform visual property, we will perceive them as a group as opposed to other elements not connected in this fashion. For example, we consider the dots connected by a frame or a line on a scatter diagram as a group.


To conclude, creating a dashboard design with these aims and principles in mind can be pivotal in arriving at dashboards that are simple, elegant, and easy for the user to decode. It’s about time you based your endeavor on it.

Dashboards are an incredible method to impart information and other data, particularly with a user-centered, goal-driven design that follows dashboard design principles. Although every dashboard is unique and has its objectives, necessities, and restrictions, following the above mentioned five principles will help in making good dashboard designs.

By using these best and effective dashboard design principles, you’ll guarantee that everybody within your organization can identify vital information quickly, which will quicken the development, growth, and advancement of your business. That results in a bigger audience, more profits, and a more extended reach – the key elements of an effective business.

Contact Net Solutions for UX help

Anchal Seth

About the Author

Anchal Seth is a User Experience Designer at Net Solutions. She has been actively involved in various projects related to enhancing the UX of applications developed at Net Solutions. Besides work, she loves reading novels and often finds interest in writing journals.

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