Creating dynamic dashboards can be a challenge. Many examples look very much alike, and communicating lots of data can be overwhelming. But here are 4 principles to keep in mind when designing a dashboard. They can help ensure your ZingChart dash will be a useful tool.

1. Don't Ape Another Dashboard

Avoid completely copying another dashboard.

Your data is unique, so your dataviz should be, too.  Consider the structure of your dashboard in terms of your goals and what you want to measure.

According to Software Advice, the overview screen is essentially a high level summary of your most important metrics. What will help your users make decisions? Would a simple graph of raw data over time suffice, or do you want to combine metrics to create Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)?

2. Get Interactive

Let users take control.

This is one area of dashboard design where using ZingChart is a real advantage. Our charting library has features that allow you to adhere to a dashboard design best practice: not showing everything at once. They include:

Another way to improve usability on an interactive dashboard is to include two-panel selectors. It achieves the best practice of avoiding scrolling on a dashboard.

That way users can see a list of options all at once, without overwhelming them with too much information. This allows users to browse quickly and focus on one set of information at a time. This design is most effective on tablets and desktops.

For dashboards used on mobile devices, consider using one-window drilldown. To further assist mobile users, ZingChart also provides a button to bring up the context menu on a chart when viewed on a mobile device.

3. Styling is Key

Style options can communicate.

Titles and Labels - Clearly titling sections on a dashboard is an easy and effective way to ensure usability.

Colors - Flat design is a style choice and as we previously discussed, can be incorporated into dashboards. But ZingChart’s flexibility lets you style colors on every chart element to incorporate your organization’s branding, too.

A company’s branding can be reflected in a dashboard through more than colors, though. ZingChart offers the ability to add font families, images,and logos, too.

If you’re making multiple charts across your organization, you might consider developing a ZingChart theme, to ensure branding is consistent on dashboards and other charts.

Colors can also communicate information from a quick glance, which is a dashboard design best practice. Think: green for things going well, red for problems.

Images - ZingChart offers several ways to include imagery. Including images can be helpful when designing dashboards in a few ways:

  • Icons help communicate information quickly.

  • Background images can help tell a story or include branding.

  • Images can contribute to an aesthetically pleasing experience.

4. View Your Dashboard Like an End User

Present things how users would expect to see them.

There are a few more best practices to follow when designing dashboards that can improve usability and ensure your users are able to make the most of their time with your charts.

  • Present the most important things first - A strong visual hierarchy that displays items in a way that users would expect helps to prioritize information.

  • Small multiples/four columns - Displaying data in a variety of ways aids users in understanding and making conclusions.

  • Form over function - It doesn’t matter how “beautiful” your dashboard looks. If it is slow to load or disorganized, it will not be used as often.

Got a Killer Dashboard?

Want to add to our list of dashboard design principles? Care to show off your awesome dash? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And of course, you can always give ZingChart a spin.