Within the Tableau community I see many dashboards shared that look great. Often they are highly complex, sometimes like works of art. In reality, in my professional career I have never seen dashboards of that type. Dashboards should be simple.

In the commercial environment dashboards are to provide information. Therefore dashboards should be clear and simple; users shouldn’t have to search for standard information.

While developing dashboards consider the following:

  • Key information should be obvious for the users.
  • The dashboard layout should be basic, distractions caused by over engineered design should be removed.
  • Try and eliminate scrolling, however, should scrolling be necessary, as often on very small screen, try and ensure it’s vertical scrolling.
  • Colours should be kept to a minimum and used consistently. White is a good background colour as it doesn’t distract
  • Use well known chart types; try and keep to bar and line charts.

To a developer this may feel monotonous however, for the report users, it creates consistency which increases understanding. It helps convey the information in a simple and structured manner.

For example, while on a project for a large investment bank, a deliverable was a sales dashboard for use by the salespeople. The goal was to:

1. Inform about their sales performance;

2. How they compare to their peers in the same sales team;

3. Who they were selling to and

4. What they were selling.

Profit margin is also very useful information for the salespeople, indicated by the colour of the bar and the % alongside.

Investment bankers tend to be very time squeezed. Therefore they don’t have the patience to interpret complex dashboards. Those working in financial services want information on demand, in seconds or less.

The simple but effective dashboard

The dashboard was very straightforward, the end result 4 simple bar charts. Tableau Action filters linked the charts to bring them to life, similar to the example dashboard below.

Over 400 users per week were using that dashboard with the user base was growing continually.

Simple dashboards can be highly effective.