Over the years I have seen a many dashboard projects succeed, but some have failed for many different reasons. We learn the most from things that do not succeed because it is only then that the appropriate time and energy is truly expended to understand what was accomplished and what went wrong.

Starting on the right foot
There is no perfect formula for an optimal design that will work 100% of the time for all cases because requirements are always a moving target that revolves around delivering and meeting expectations of users who may not know themselves exactly what they want to accomplish. With that said, there are a few commonalities for the user experience that have helped propel me down a successful path:

  • Create a user interface paradigm that is easy to grasp
  • Provide enough visual direction to how the end user will navigate the application:
    This is achieved through effective layout design and positioning of elements on the screen. If it is not evident how the application should be used by an end user, you need to re-evaluate your design.
  • Present information in an order of magnitude creating an intuitive workflow
  • Be prepared to be flexible and committed to evolving the application even after deployment
  • Avoid scope creep by starting with a simple deliverable in a phased approach
  • Use technology for the UI that lends itself to minimal screen refresh and loading time.

Measuring Success
The measurement of success can vary, but at the end of the day, it is user adoption that will drive other success measures like ROI. You can build the perfect dashboard or application, but if it is not adopted for what ever reason, your project is a failure. The user experience design itself is one of several elements that could impact the user adoption rate. There are other contributing factors to any dashboard application’s success that are just as important as the visual interface itself. The coolest and sexiest dashboard won’t save you if you have any major problems with the following.

  • Communication breakdown between end user stakeholders, IT, and designer
  • Data quality
  • Query response time
  • Stability
  • Security

Securing the Necessary Skill Sets
There is several skill sets required to create a compelling, useful, and easy to use dashboard. At the end of the day, a dashboard should connect business information and present it in a medium that enables an end user to drive action. To date I have never worked on a dashboard project where less than 2 individuals were needed because of the business, technical, and design expertise required. A dashboard project should be a collaborative process combining business performance measurements, data access, and visual presentation. If you can’t assemble a group to collectively execute on of all of these points, or have a significant weakness in any area, you could be putting your project at risk. You will need to secure resources who:

  • Understand the business process, strategy, problems, and end users needs
  • Define and prioritize performance measures and metrics aligned to the business
  • Know the IT infrastructure and location of required data to populate the dashboard
  • Have technical competency to collect aggregate and provide data to data visualization
  • Have experience in information design and visual design

Please feel free to share your experiences.

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