8 speedy ways to improve your dashboard

6 August 2018

Karun Soni

Karun Soni

Consultant

SAP dashboards used to be a sight for sore eyes. Now with Fiori - intuitive design is readily available and help is at hand. Karun Soni has some pointers to make some real improvements to dashboard design.

With a background in graphic design, I have frequently been asked make improvements to dashboards. Here are some quick wins that will make a big difference.

 

Layout

Think about how the viewer will look at this work (end-user interviews are useful for these insights!) and the direction their eyes will travel through the dashboard. Typically, viewers will look at a dashboard in a ‘Z’ route to track the information on screen.

Thinking about the user journey of discovery is important to consider. This helps you identify what information should be prioritised appropriately so that users can follow the dashboard story clearly. User testing can be iterative too. Heatmapping software like Hotjar shows where user activity is on the screen, which gives you quantitative insight to justify design decisions.


Fig 1. Heatmapping software |  Source: Hotjar
 

Aesthetics

White Space: Look at your dashboard and see how much whitespace there is on the page. Too much clutter and unnecessary writing can distract the viewer from what’s important. Ask yourself if you are only displaying what is necessary. Perhaps consider if any ‘non-data’ writing can be stripped out of the dashboard, or anything that does not support your story.

Fonts: Make sure font types and sizes are consistent in the content of the dashboard. A common mistake is having one font for descriptions and another for the legend in a graph. However, it is okay to combine two fonts in one dashboard if used appropriately, one example of this is combining Helvetica (headers) and Gill Sans (content.) Yes, my inner graphic designer is coming out here.

Colours: In most cases, one or two colours is most appropriate to make dashboards work- sometimes a client’s corporate colour scheme will have to be used. Consider using brighter, vibrant colour to highlight any exceptions in data and perhaps even dull down the secondary colour so it stands out more. I’ve always been a fan of a RAG visual (Red, Amber, Green) which will give the user an immediate subconscious indication of how things are going before processing the information.

Grid: This is so important! Does your dashboard align both horizontally and vertically? This is a minor change that actually makes a huge difference. It’s something that is religiously practiced by graphic designers when producing artwork.
 
  
Fig 2. Clean, aesthetic visuals with Lumira 2.0 | Source: SAP Lumira


Dynamic visuals

From filters to drilldowns, are you allowing the user to interact with the data? If you already are doing this, is the information being provided in each drilldown useful for your target user(s)?

Also, it is important to consider whether this user journey can be simplified. For example, can a user in the UK log in and see information that is relevant to just that market instead of having to drilldown from a high-level view of
all the European data? This is something that comes out of user research
for insights.
 

Appropriate use of data visualisations

Do the visualisations tell a clear story in the dashboard? Sometimes more complex visuals are used to create a ‘wow’ factor but something simpler would suffice. A good way to resolve this is to anticipate questions that the audience frequently would ask.

If you find it difficult to pull conclusions from the data in the format presented, or if there are still open questions that cannot be answered with filters/ drilldowns, something may be wrong. A good example of this is users jumping to use a geo map as soon as location data is provided. In some cases, using a geo map will not clearly demonstrate the information
desired, it may actually cause issues for the user.

 

User Experience

There isn’t anything fancy about this last point, it is simply considering the experience of the end-user. However, it seems to be a common failure, usually because they are designed for the representatives of end-users or stakeholders. Users lose patience quickly with an inadequate visual- so it is important to display information in a clear and cohesive manner that catches their eye in a few seconds.

Research users themselves, allow users to play with low fidelity wireframes, pull insights and iteratively play back to them. The users should be the ones who inspire the design and layout. After all, it is their needs we are catering too.

For best practice, follow the User Experience Design process, i.e. understand your users and their requirements, prototype, implement, evaluate and repeat rather than jumping straight into the tool and designing immediately.

Want to learn more about UX? Check out this tool called ‘Build’!
 

About the author

Karun Soni

Consultant

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race