What Goes Into an Effective Online Dashboard?

Robert HoldemanWebsite Tips, Website Tools, Website Trends

Coming up with a recipe for a really effective online member/customer dashboard is sort of like creating a new and tasty desert.  As the head chef, you need to execute your vision.  Do you layer it in gooey goodness, riddled with valuable nuggets to be discovered in its depths?  Or do you present a modest display of wholesome ingredients that will nourish your audience and sustain them as you grow your dashboard vision?

The answer to this dilemma can be found by answering these two questions:

  • First, put yourself in the shoes of someone who will be using the dashboard: your customer, an employee, external sales representatives, management or key staff, board of directors, etc.  What data do they want, what are they looking to know?  What does my audience need?
  • Second, ask yourself “How much is enough to make it valuable and useful?”.  Start simple and don’t try to do too much at first.  Your dashboard can evolve and grow, as long as it stays focused on the needs of your audience, it will get used.

Since success is measurable by how much it gets used, be sure to setup a way to measure the outcome, such as Google Analytics.  Use these metrics and solicit feedback from your audience to determine how your dashboard should evolve.  You’re better to start simply, with data that is not too time-consuming to update, displayed in a way that is fast and easily understood by your audience.

Some general suggestions:

  • Keep it on one page.
  • Make it interactive.
  • If needed, employ user-controls, such as sliders or accordian effects, to make the best use of your real estate.
  • Organize the data so it flows, the way your audience expects it to.
  • Use icons where possible (graphic links can improve the flow of your dashboard).
  • Use graphs instead of tables to show data – remember that you want to make your data easy to get at and to understand.
  • Include as much information as you can from dynamic sources, like an RSS feed from a news channel or data pulled from an enterprise system.

The development of an effective dashboard takes time and, depending on its complexity, may take professional help to setup and configure.  Choose a web developer with the right experience to guide you and bring your vision to life so that it’s easy to maintain for you and valuable for your audience.