People often say that in architecture, music and fashion “less is more”. However, when it comes to Business Intelligence and dashboard design, there are usually much more opinions.
I’d say that simplicity has become a trend in design in the last years and we can see it everywhere: your smartphone’s interface, the building you’re working at, your email or the menu in the wall of your favorite restaurant. Take, for instance, the evolution of Microsoft’s logo over the last few years:
Non technological brands like Pepsi:
…and yes, even QlikView:
It is clear that elements such as gauges, animated charts and infographics are not only interesting ways to capture our users’ attention, but also powerful tools that provide insights. However, depending on the data we’re analyzing and the type of users we’re working with, other approaches may prove more effective.
When working on a dashboard, designers should strive for great analytical capabilities and usability while keeping things as simple as they can be. This doesn’t mean that all your tabs should look like a minimalistic painting, but as a BI professional, it is vital to understand when and how complexity is going to benefit our business users. Just follow the QlikView way: simple and powerful.
Today’s post doesn’t have any sophisticated tricks, just some recommendations to create lean and meaningful dashboards.
Don’t be afraid of big fonts. Text objects are one of the simplest elements in QlikView, but they are incredibly flexible. They can be used as backgrounds, frames, labels, and much more. Don’t be afraid to use them to represent your KPIs. Sometimes a big number in Arial 28 is all you need to create a great app.
Use adequate spacing between the objects. Those 47 charts and tables you just created look beautiful, but trying to put all of them in just one screen may not be the best idea. If you leave some space between objects, the interface looks cleaner and it’s easier to appreciate each element.
Use images and colors wisely. Yes, everyone loves the corporate mascot… but you don’t have to use it everywhere! I won’t deny that adding colors and images is a good way to highlight important data but be careful, when you get carried away it’s easy to end up with a comic book instead of an app.
Consistency and alignment. Every dashboard has its own style, some of them are very formal and static while others may be dynamic and colorful, it’s up to you. However, try to be consistent with the colors, fonts, sizes, filters and overall style of the application. Also, don’t forget to use the alignment buttons to ensure that all of your objects are well distributed, it always helps your apps to look more professional.
Choose your weapon. Robust and efficient data models may go to waste if you don’t know how to present data in a meaningful way. Try to choose the right tool for the job or you will end up with a lot of hollow objects that will never be used. Before rushing into battle, take a minute to think which combination will be the most effective. Remember, it’s not about which chart type you use, it’s about sending the message.
Do you really need that? When you create a chart, analyze elements such as captions, special icons, borders, titles in chart and shadows. If they don’t add any value, it’s better to get rid of them.
I hope you find these simple tips useful for your applications. Even if you are a QlikView veteran, it’s good to go back every now and then to review the basics. Don’t forget that the user experience is one of the most important parts of Business Intelligence.
If you have any comments or have a piece of advice you’d like to share, please leave a comment in the section below.