Have you ever felt frustrated trying to extract the one piece of information you are looking for in your dashboards?

There is more data available to organisations today than ever before. Advances in technology mean the types of information companies are collecting from their customers and audiences is also multiplying. From traditional sources such as customer mailing addresses and phone numbers to more advanced demographics such as customer behaviour and buying patterns from social media, mobile apps, websites and CRM interactions, this titanic of information is being generated every single day in the digital world. 

All this data is an extremely valuable resource for businesses. Marketing managers, sales managers, directors, service reps need vital data at their fingertips to be able to do their day jobs. It is incredibly useful for sales managers to be able to list key statistics from past sales campaigns to a prospective client in real time on sales call instead of having to say they will go away and search for the information and get back to them. Alternatively for a marketing manager to be able to access key market trend analysis at the touch of a button is invaluable. 

Business Intelligence (BI) and data teams have been creating dashboards for all kinds of data and pushing it to business users for a while now. The dashboards publicly display the important data in real time, so every department has access to the information it needs to better collaborate. The dashboards utilise data visualisation to display a combination of company metrics, which is great for keeping everyone in the company on the same page. CMOs can base their customer strategy and product marketing strategies from the information and search hidden patterns in the data produced by customer activities. 

Are Your Visualisations Useful?

While some love dashboards as they show views of what’s working and what isn’t with no need to wait for weekly or monthly reports from a centralised data centre, at Acrotrend we hear time and time again from client business users that dashboards are confusing. Common problems we hear include: “Too much information,” or “Too complex to understand” or “I can never find that one thing I need,” or “OK, I get that but why did this happen?” and so on. Clearly, in our over enthusiasm to share all available data with everyone, we have created the phenomenon of ‘Death by Dashboards!” We have forgotten how to keep visualisations useful, with information that is relevant that users can understand and act on in a naturally simple manner.  

Visualisations need to engage the users and tell a story of what’s going on and why. Many dashboards aren’t the magic view some managers treat them as and they are poor at providing the nuance and context that effective data-driven decision making demands. 

According to Stephen Few, a leader in the field of data visualisation who exposes the common problems in dashboard design: “Complexity is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Necessary complexity — that which is meaningful and relevant to the task at hand — is useful and should therefore never be eliminated or even reduced. Instead, it should be managed.” I’ve written about him in another post which you can find here.

At Acrotrend, we believe data visualisation is a craft, not a technical task. We have the vision to empower our clients to discover more about their customers. With that in mind, we have developed Visualisation Design Methodology to keep in sight the basic but evergreen principles of how insights and visualisations are consumed. We ask our clients: “What are your businesses key questions? Who is asking them? How would you access the insights? How much information do you need to know??What will you do with the answers?” 

And as designers, we know a few best practices to help our users avoid information overload by keeping things simple, relevant and clear. We categorise our data, break down information into manageable KPIs, and build a story around it. We select the most appropriate charts and normalise scales to give it the business context. We recognise the importance of layout and background and use navigation, animation and icons to interact with data visualisations, so the users are not overwhelmed. We identify key actions, triggers and notifications and integrate them within the dashboard designs so the users can carry out their tasks with minimum hassle.  

As a result, we have seen the user adoption of our visualisations go up by as much as 200% and users keep asking for more. In our opinion, that’s the best feedback we could ever get for the visualisations we have designed.