Complete Guide to Dashboard UX Design: 6 Step Guide for UX Designers
UX Design
June 28, 2023
4 mins read
6 Step Guide to Master Dashboard UX Design

How To Implement an Effective Dashboard UX Design?

What is a Dashboard?

Dashboards serve as a centralized hub for displaying key performance indicators (KPIs), metrics, and other important data points that are crucial for monitoring the health and performance of a business. They are designed to provide a real-time snapshot of various aspects of the business, such as sales performance, marketing effectiveness, operational efficiency, financial metrics, and more.

By presenting data in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand format, dashboards enable decision-makers to quickly assess the current state of the business and make informed decisions. They often include interactive elements that allow users to drill down into specific data points for more detailed analysis.

Dashboards can be customized to cater to different stakeholders within an organization, providing relevant insights and information tailored to their specific roles and responsibilities. They are widely used across industries and functions, including finance, marketing, sales, human resources, and operations, among others.

Overall, dashboards play a critical role in facilitating data-driven decision-making by offering a comprehensive and intuitive way to monitor performance, identify trends, and track progress towards business objectives.

Before knowing how to implement an effective Dashboard UX Design, one must get familiar with the benefits that it holds:

Dashboard interfaces
Dashboards displayed on various screens

Benefits of a Dashboard:

  • For effective Forecasting: With the data presented by the dashboard, businesses can make the right predictions about the demand that could be there in the future, thereby, getting them prepared, beforehand.

  • To Improve Decision-Making process: “With great data insights comes the great sense of decision-making responsibility” Better decisions can be made by the business when the data is presented efficiently focussing on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

  • It saves a lot of time: Decisions can be made correctly based on the insights provided by the dashboard, thereby saving a lot of time by skipping the process of analyzing overwhelming amounts of data.

  • Real-time Data at your fingertips: In eCommerce websites, the business happening in real-time can be visualized effectively in order to see the customer behavior. This helps to take quick actions to keep the sales funnel smooth. 

All these benefits do not just come from having a dashboard. A dashboard is functional only when the right UX is implemented. But if you ask us how to achieve the efficiency, we’d ask you to read further:

6 step guide to master dashboard UX Design infographics
6 Step Guide for UX Designers to design a perfect dashboard

User Experience plays a crucial part while designing a dashboard. It does not just grab the attention of the user but it also stirs up interest within the user to keep them engaged to the dashboard over a period of time. With the scarce attention paid by everyone towards the screens nowadays, grabbing their attention at the first glance and serving the same experience throughout has become very essential. 

To keep things precise, we have come up with 6 detailed steps to bring about an effective Dashboard that will take the dashboard experience to next level:

1. Start with Your Purpose

Before starting on your dashboard design, it is important to decide on what the purpose of the dashboard is. This is supposed to be the first step of designing an effective Dashboard UX Design. While there are too many categories of classifying the dashboards, we have listed three of them to keep things simple & clear:

The first type is,

  • Operational dashboards: This tells you what’s happening now. The purpose of operational dashboards is to let the user make quick decisions which make this type the “time-sensitive” one. To provide the users with valuable insights in real-time is the main objective of the operational dashboard.

  • Strategic dashboards: These serve the purpose of tracking the key performance indicators of the business. Unlike operational dashboards, this need not be analyzed in real-time. Instead, this could be viewed once a day comfortably to keep track of the KPIs.

  • Analytical dashboards: These are the star performers employed to process the data in order to identify trends in it. For decision-making purposes, Analytical dashboards display the processed insights. Exactly opposite to that of operational dashboards, Analytical dashboards are not developed for taking quick actions. Instead, it is for the users to analyze the trend over a period of time and make the best decision out of it. 

When the purpose of the dashboard is finalized, the designer can move on to understanding the users. 

2. Understand the Users

In the world of UX, designing (not just for dashboard layout) means understanding what the user expects. Here, Understanding means getting into the user’s shoes and determine their needs. So as to achieve it, user research is conducted to collect the data. 

While the data collected can help the designer build a user persona, not everyone focuses on the “User Psychology” Unlike collecting data, knowing User psychology helps to understand the feelings and actions which gives the designer the power to make the users think/behave in a certain way, on purpose.

It is highly recommended to go by this mantra - “Minimize Cognitive load to Maximise Usability” cause, providing only what is required for the users is the key to preventing them from getting overwhelmed by the data/complex functionality of the core dashboard layout.

3. Less Interactivity to Gain More Attention

Users can only take up a certain amount of information and anything that crosses the limit can easily overwhelm them. This pressure that users feel during navigation and usage of a site to complete a task is the cognitive load. An effective UX puts things in the right place so as to avoid making the users feel confused.

Visual representation of cognitive load theory
Cognitive load theory example

Tips to Reduce Cognitive Load on Users:

  • Use simple language to convey Instructions
  • Usage of Minimal design (De-Cluttering)
  • Understand how users read their data and display accordingly
  • Implement consistent design to create a sense of familiarity (which indirectly builds familiarity to your brand name)

The main motive of a great Dashboard is to convey key information to the users in a visual hierarchy format. So, it is better if extensive scrolling and interactivity are expected from the user end. Try to keep the important information minimal and make the design a user-centered design. Because the users often tend to focus more on the data on the top and the data at the bottom goes unnoticed. 

Thus, only show minimal, but key information which could be done by the process of “Prioritization” which helps a great deal to reduce overwhelming the users. 

4. Prioritize the Information

A designer always carries the pressure of the “5 Second Rule” on their minds which motivates them to grab the user’s attention within 5 seconds and hold it throughout. If the user can’t find what they’re looking for, it might end up with a lower retention rate. 

As we have already discussed how humans can only pay attention for a small period of time, it is important to display only what is required. Cause, With too much information, the user tends to take no action at all and also make it suitable for the target audience.

But How do you Know What is Needed and What is Not?

This is where the user research you have conducted to understand the users comes into action. Make use of the data to identify the core information that will be most needed for the users. Prioritize that set of data on the top of the page.

Analysis Paralysis ALERT!

By giving too much information load on the users, they tend to overthink the data which delays the process of decision making. This mistake of giving too much information/choices to the user is known as “Analysis Paralysis”. 

Understanding the impact of cognitive load on users
Analysis paralysis

Instead of putting in scrollable data beneath, we highly recommend you to provide just insights. Here, user interaction can be expected to reveal the insight data, which also helps in de-cluttering the main page.

5. Insights > Data

The reason behind why Insights are preferred over raw data is the reduced complexity of visualizing the information. While displaying the insights, how would you decide on what kind of insights can be beneficial for the user?

To begin with, Analyse the various aspects of the business goals and see which Key Performance Indicators align with the goals better. To visually represent the most relevant data points based on the goals of your business, KPIs play a crucial role. 

Apart from the goals of the business, make use of the data obtained from your user research to determine what the user is looking for. This helps even better to choose the perfect KPI for your dashboard. 

Also, while providing insights to the user based on the user behavior, make sure to add appropriate titles and comparison data points for their clear understanding. 

6. Appropriate Way of Visualisation

The data that is to be visualized on the dashboard can either be static, dynamic, or both. Choosing the right format to display the data is an important step while designing your dashboard and also make sure it follows the dashboard design guidelines. There are several types of charts to be chosen based on the data. 

data visualisation
proper dashboard visualisation

For example, When there are minor changes in the data trends that need to be addressed, Line charts are preferred over bar charts. And Bar charts are used to compare data trends over the course of time (Note: time should always be followed in the x-axis). 

Also, Data tables, Pie charts aren’t that effective when it comes to data visualization and information hierarchy. It is because it gives a lot of opportunities to misinterpret the displayed data. Owing to the fact that areas and angles are difficult for humans to interpret, Pie and Donut charts are not usually recommended. 

One another type of chart that is better off to not be used is 3D Charts as they are difficult to read by the users. 

Choose the Right Kind of Chart

  1. Key data such as No. of variables considered
  2. In what way the variables are distributed and,
  3. Volume of data to be analyzed (No. of data points)

Dashboard Design Best Practices To Follow

Here are a few dashboard design best practices that you need to keep in mind:

  • Don’t overload the dashboard with too much information. Make sure everything is easy to understand at a glance.
  • Put the most important data where it’s easy to see. Users shouldn’t have to hunt for what matters most.
  • Charts and graphs can make data easier to understand, but don’t overdo it. Make sure visuals support the data and don’t confuse users.
  • The dashboard UI should work well on different devices and screen sizes. Nobody wants to zoom in and out or scroll endlessly.
  • Use the same style and layout throughout the dashboard. Consistency makes it easier for users to navigate.
  • Allow users to customize their dashboard to fit their needs. Everyone’s preferences are different so user based dashboard customization is important.
  • Make sure users know what each visualization elements on the dashboard represents. Clear and relevant information with labels prevent confusion.
  • Before finalizing the design, get feedback from real people. They’ll tell you what works and what doesn’t.
  • Don't forget about Agile UX design, which can revolutionize your design process today.
  • Keep the dashboard up-to-date with the latest data. Stale information is no good to anyone.
  • Ensure the dashboard is accessible to users with disabilities. Everyone should be able to use it comfortably.

While making the dashboard look aesthetic, maintain visual hierarchy and appealing is demanded at one side, the functionality of it can never be compromised at any point. Implement the above-given tips while designing your dashboard to make it an impactful one.

Building Alien and helping startups and enterprises with Branding, Websites, Mobile & Web Apps. Alien crew deployed 20+ Projects across industries in the last two and half years: - Banking - Financal services - Ecommerce - Healthcare - Edutech - Enterprise softwares

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What is dashboard UX design?

Dashboard UX design focuses on creating intuitive and visually appealing interfaces for data visualization and efficient user interaction.

How can I create a user-friendly navigation system for my dashboard?

To create a user-friendly navigation system for your dashboard, prioritize simplicity, intuitive design, clear labeling, and logical categorization.

What are the fundamentals of dashboard design?

The fundamentals of dashboard design include clarity, simplicity, relevant data, intuitive navigation, and effective visualizations.

How can I ensure a responsive and mobile-friendly design for dashboard UX?

To ensure a responsive and mobile-friendly design for dashboard UX, use responsive frameworks, optimize images, and conduct thorough testing.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when designing a dashboard?

Common mistakes to avoid when designing a dashboard include cluttered layouts, excessive data, lack of user testing, and inconsistent visualizations.