All too often, marketing dashboards are crowded and hard to navigate. Regardless of whether they are packed with useless metrics, or because they have irrelevant data mixed in with important KPIs and charts, either scenario is counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs.
Think of all the information contained in a dashboard as a cohesive unit. By creating a hierarchical visual structure, users will be able to easily navigate and understand the significance of different KPIs and graphs to strategic objectives by their position within the report. Creating such norms throughout your organizational reporting will also facilitate quick understanding whenever a new dashboard format is rolled out.
Dashboards elements should be structured in order of importance:
Start with a high-level textual summary, or story annotation, with a captivating headline that quickly gives users the most important information.
Follow this by the most significant strategic KPIs at the top of your canvas. These elements will immediately tell the audience WHAT is happening. Placing these elements at ‘center stage’ will enable data consumers to focus on and digest the most important information before diving into the nitty-gritty.
Next, add supporting context. This could be in the form of charts and/or tables that allow the reader to explore their metrics to understand WHY things are happening. Doing so will help you isolate trends, patterns, and anomalies.
Lastly, if there is any additional information you are considering including, ask yourself whether it adds additional value or insight to what you have already presented. Place it at the bottom of your report, or attach it as a downloadable document or link, but only where it brings significant value.
There is no golden rule or set limit on the number of KPIs, charts, and tables you should include in your dashboard. Some commentators recommend limiting principle KSIs or KPIs to 5, however, you should explore and decide based on the requirements for each individual use case. The overriding principle should be to only display what is actually relevant for your target audience.
When attempting to limit the information presented to your information consumers, be discerning but not obsessively so. Don’t neglect to include critical information just to limit the number of KPIs presented. For example, don’t force your audience to make additional calculations independently or leave behind a crucial contextual metric. Doing so would not only frustrate your data consumers but force them to waste time and also potentially question the value of the whole report. Be clear on their needs in order to respect their time and provide the most valuable information possible.
The 5-second test
When you look at a website, you should be able to interpret the main message in 5 seconds or less. This same idea applies to dashboards. In 5 short seconds, your audience should be able to get a grasp on the message you are trying to communicate and the main objective of your dashboard. Ask for their feedback during the planning stage to make sure this message is loud and clear. You might have to iterate a few times, however, it is much easier to test and edit while you’re still building out your solution and you’ll most definitely save time in the long run by doing so early.
So, can your marketing dashboard pass the 5-second test?
Not Another Dashboard.