And this is a good segue to next point for great dashboard design. You want to make every pixel count. You don't want to waste attention on something that is not important. Like the title of your dashboard, bright background colors, or big lines. The difficult problem is often what you need to get rid of and not what you need to add to your dashboard. So that's where really you can make your dashboard effective.
A great way to achieve that is by applying the data-ink-ratio. That's another rule by Tufte, which is saying that the ink you use on your dashboard to present data divided by the total ink that you use on your graphics will help your dashboard to be more data centric. So you want to have a higher number, and that's where your design is more effective.
So let's take a look at an example that explains that rule. So here's a loaded ink ratio chart, and I am going apply a few changes to it to make it a high data ink ratio chart. So first I am going to remove the background, and then I would remove the frames. Only change to a single color, remove the effects, remove the gridlines, reduce the font width.
View a 2-minute demonstration
of InetSoft's easy, agile, and robust BI software.
I will use direct labels instead of axis labels, and now what I can do is, I compare the two versions side by side. You can see on the left-hand side, you have a high data ink ratio and on the right-hand low data ink ratio, and you can see how the lessened side chart is much easier to read and use and in my mind, also more visually appealing, versus the right-hand side chart.
Here's another example of a dashboard designed by students, which I mentioned earlier. It's a dashboard we would implement according to his design in the InetSoft application, and often these designs are heavily implementing this rule as you can see on this dashboard, almost every pixel is used for data and there's lots of it on this dashboard.
I think it's a good proof to the point I was making in the beginning our products, which are always allowing you to serve 100% of the use cases. It's actually quite hard in most technologies to get rid of things rather than add things and being able to achieve this type of a design requires a lot of flexibility with your solution. Again, this sample is also available in our sample gallery. If you want to take a look just go to the website and open the gallery and you can see that sample live on your computer.
The number six tip for better dashboard design, take answers as far as you can. You want to keep asking why and what happens next. Not because you want to be annoying but because we are always pushing people to think about the next step. Now that you have this number, what are you going to do with it?
So, in this example, we have actuals and targets expressed in dollars here, but what are the numbers that you actually need. Maybe what you want is the variance. If that's the case, we should actually show that versus the expenses and the targets. Maybe what you want is the actual percentage, not the dollar value for that variance, so again, we can show exactly that.
So you want to try to take these answers as far as you can and by pushing those further. The question then becomes can we go beyond this to make it easier to see the right information and actually improve decision making capabilities. Can we make the process more scientific than ad hoc? Can we gain from control over the process? This push to continuously take things to the next level is what innovation and great design is all about.