If you’re a business owner looking to integrate a dashboard into your workflow, then our discussion today may be of special interest to you. A custom dashboard development project can broaden insights about your process and allow a superior interpretation of Key Performance Indicators – KPIs.
In this article, we’ll discuss the following points:
- What is defined as a dashboard?
- Who should use dashboards?
- Planning for Dashboard Development
- Defining what you need from your custom dashboard
- Data sources
- Understand where data will be sourced
- Source reliability
- Source security
- Understand where data will be sourced
- Dashboard Design
- User roles
- Summary and Conclusions
First, let’s define the term ‘dashboard’. Generalized, it’s a visually logical display of vital information pertaining to a given process. Ideally, it should be presented in a way that enhances one’s use of, or interaction with the individual pieces of information. In other words, the resulting dashboard should be more meaningful to the one viewing it than the sum of its parts would be, if viewed individually.
Our firm uses a structured approach to dashboard development projects. Through sprint meetings with clients, a comprehensive understanding of their workflow is achieved. This ensures a finished product that is unencumbered by bottlenecks or inefficiencies, reducing unnecessary workload for clients later on.
Who should use dashboards?
In general the answer might include anyone, from employees and their managers, to industry leaders and government officials.
Dashboards mainly function as an interface portal for internal data access. As such, dashboard development is always specifically crafted to engage with authorized users. Many options exist for configuring dashboards, depending on the specific needs of any given user group.
Let’s look at a few examples of various dashboard types, and shed some light on why they exist.
Dashboard web application development is one option that can work for certain types of user groups. Here, a dashboard in a web app format provides remote availability of data over the internet, to the appropriate people.
A software development metrics dashboard, on the other hand, is a tool that works both for a development firm’s internal use, as well as for their clients’ use. This type is often simply referred to as a software development dashboard, because it reports on aspects of the development process. Its prime function is to support the analysis of costs and workflow in this process.
The same dashboard concept can also take the form of a software development KPI dashboard, which focuses on the analysis of a more specific set of data, Key Performance Indicators.
Planning for Dashboard Development:
Defining what you need from your custom dashboard
This is the first important step in the dashboard development process. Here, you’ll visualize the main goals of the project, identifying the key functions of the dashboard.
While it is usually possible to make sweeping changes to the software down the road, this is not an ideal approach to dashboard development. Of greater benefit is to have a more insightful plan from the outset, reducing the need for restructuring, later on.
Gathering input from the proposed end users of your dashboard, even during the conceptual stages, can provide you with valuable feedback.
At the same time, decide if other sources of feedback might apply in your circumstance, and consider soliciting feedback from those as well.
Identifying recurring needs is the next vital element to include in your dashboard development. In some cases, these might be needs that occur regularly on a daily, hourly or other basis.
Common workflows for users include informative graphs, charts or other useful elements in order to relate a story to the user. Refreshing the data to these elements to reflect updated information would be an example of one such recurring need.
Identify the goals for the dashboard in specific terms, leaving out no details. Some typical usage scenarios for dashboards can include:
- Supervisory checks for employees
- New assignments and projects
- Auto messaging
Identify measurable KPIs that you want to include in your dashboard development. Naturally, these indicators can vary tremendously in scope and style, from one process to another. The same indicators you’d use in a white board presentation might also apply to your dashboard, but with greater visual options available.
To illustrate our next point, let’s take a look at how dashboard information is updated. In reality there are quite a few possibilities which can accomplish the objective. Manual data entry is one option for updating data, as is uploading the data file from a remote source, such as an internet server.
API connections present yet another possible data source that can be used to effect changes to graphics being displayed. APIs act like an automatic mediator program, passing instructions and results between two other separate systems, to achieve a common objective.
To reiterate a point we made earlier, these updates may be required at regular intervals of time or other changing criteria, in order that they remain relevant to users. This can mean that more than one independent system may be critical, in keeping your dashboard operational.
This fact of course suggests the question of reliability, regarding the data sources, as well as security considerations:
- Will your dashboard’s data from varying sources need to be verified in any way, to ensure accuracy?
- Are there external security risks associated with the data you’ll be processing? Personal info is just one example of sensitive data types commonly shared between systems.
So far we’ve covered some important points about identifying your dashboard’s needs, workflow and data sources. Now we can focus on specifics about your dashboard’s presentation and appearance.
How to present your data will be the most important consideration you’ll have, in planning this aspect of your dashboard development. There are a lot of options to choose from when deciding on the layout and format of your dashboard. The best answer depends on what will be the most suitable look and feel for yourself and your users’ needs.
Best practices can vary from one scenario to another, but there are some sensible rules that should usually be followed if possible:
- Keep your audience in mind when planning your dashboard’s layout. Consider what you’d like to have users thinking about while they’re working with your dashboard.
- Context is of major importance when deciding on the layout of your dashboard. Remember that you’re telling a story with the workflow, so it needs to be coherent. Keeping details in proper context will help with holding your users’ focus and keeping them on task.
- Avoid creating a cluttered appearance on your dashboard. It isn’t crucial to fit all the information onto a single page, so use more pages if needed. A well ordered layout will increase the efficiency of your users, because less time is wasted in learning and navigating the dashboard.
How Will Data Be Presented In Your Dashboard?
For the sake of visual ease and accuracy while using it, sticking to the best practices we mentioned is a great start in your dashboard development project. Giving your dashboard an appealing look is important for more than one reason.
First is the fact that people tend to engage more fully with visually appealing dashboards. Moreover, errors can easily occur when room exists for the data to be misinterpreted.
Charts are a useful tool in dashboard development because they provide information at a glance. Some of the more common chart types for data dashboards are:
- Pie Charts
- Line Graphs
- Bar Graphs
Pecking order will also be a consideration when designing your dashboard’s layout. How the page flows from left to right and from top to bottom can impact the user’s interpretation of your data. Visual alignment of your dashboard elements should be arranged so it makes the most sense when viewing the page.
Numbers will often be instrumental in conveying your message to users, but how will your numbers be shown? Perhaps your dashboard will present one or all of the following common criteria:
- Historical Data
Before we conclude, let’s take a look at some typical scenarios where dashboards excel at enhancing workflow efficiency.
- Top Level Managers and Executive Authorities
- Collaboration between executives can occur more seamlessly
- Workflow within their own department is streamlined through better organization of tasks and projects
- Greater control over which staff have access to information and services
- Checks on other users can be simplified
- You retain the ability to create, edit and delete employee information at will
Summary and Conclusions
In this article we’ve discussed what a dashboard is, and what its role is in business. We’ve shown you examples of various dashboard configurations and discussed some of their respective benefits to business owners and managers.
Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve talked about:
- A dashboard is a display of your vital business data, presented in a logical and visually appealing format.
- Endertech uses a structured approach to dashboard development.
- Dashboards are used by people in nearly every industry in the world.
- Planning for Dashboard Development
- Data Sources
- Displaying Your Data
- Choices For Displaying Your Data
- User Roles
Clearly, the importance of planning your dashboard development project is not to be understated. Professional advice and expertise should be retained in order to ensure the highest level of quality and reliability from your dashboard.
At Endertech, we set clear expectations with our clients regarding all phases of their software development. In this way we endeavor to provide the most comprehensive level of service we can, for our customers.
We’re here to help you! Give us a call today, and we can talk over your needs for your custom dashboard.