A term that I have always alluded to when instructing users best practices in dashboard design with Xcelsius is getting “lost in visualization,” that is becoming distracted with all of the shiny widgets available and loosing sight of the objectives.
The collective business users of the world are adapted to navigating information through traditional web based (browser) navigation, the same way we are adapted to using a mouse as our human-to-computer interface. The web-page paradigm has become the standard for how business users rate ease of use for navigating through information. Since the purpose of many web sites is to captivate and draw attention, the same way that television commercials do, web pages have incorporated a lot of sex and sizzle to make them more appealing. Many dashboard products like Xcelsius have incorporated similar visual aesthetics making them a marketer’s dream.
In the case of Xcelsius, I believe that it is the selectors (drop down menus, list boxes, radio buttons, etc) that draw customers to the product and not necessarily the charts and gauges (though they are important). Creating a simple, web-like interface for navigating through enterprise data is the goal of all business users. So if Xcelsius provides great components for navigating and viewing enterprise data… where exactly do user’s get lost?
- Overcrowding the screen with analysis
- Color choice
- Component sizing
- Layout design and positioning components on the screen
- Incorrect choice of graphs for the given analysis
- Use of selectors to slice data when its not necessary
- Adding unnecessary JPG images
Personally, I am a fan of flat and simple graphics with easy to read, crisp text. In Xcelsius, I always use the halo skin because it uses minimal gradients. Many people are unaware that you can even change the skins (In Xcelsius, click View>Change Skin). I think there is a little room here and there for embossed solid backgrounds to clearly identify a visual break in content, or even using a picture menu for displaying brands that are quickly identified instead of text. At the end of the day, assuming that the designer does not add un-necessary graphics and components, I believe that a dashboard must serve to display content that:
- Is easily digestible
- Requires minimal training for end users
- Is easily navigated with few clicks
- Is presented in a simple and non distracting interface.
I will touch more on this topic of how to design better dashboards with Xcelsius in future posts.