Dashboards offer a unique and powerful solution to an organization's need for information, but they usually fall far short of their potential. Dashboards must be seen in historical context to understand and appreciate how and why they've come about, why they've become so popular, and whydespite many problems that undermine their value todaythey offer benfits worth pursuing. To date, little serious attention has been given to their visual design. This book strives to fill this gap. However, confusion abounds, demanding a clear definition of dashboards before we can explore the visual design principles and practices that must be applied if they are to live up to their unique promise.
Problems with dashboards today
Dashboards in historical context
Current confusion about what dashboards are
A working definition of "dashboard"
A timely opportunity for dashboards
Above all else, this is a book about communication. It focuses exclusively on a particular medium of communication called a dashboard. In the fast-paced world of information technology (IT), terms are constantly changing. Just when you think you've wrapped your mind around the latest innovation, the technology landscape shifts beneath you and you must struggle to remain upright. This is certainly true of dashboards.
Live your life on the surface of these shifting sands, and you'll never get your balance. Look a little deeper, however, and you'll discover more stable ground: a bedrock of objectives, principles, and practices for information handling that remains relatively constant. Dashboards are unique in several exciting and useful ways, but despite the hype surrounding them, what they are and how they work as a means of delivering information are closely related to some long-familiar concepts and technologies. It's time to cut through the hype and learn the practical skills that can help you transform dashboards from yet another fad riding the waves of the technology buzz into the effective means to enlighten that they really can be.
Today, everybody wants a dashboard. Like many newcomers to the technology scene, dashboards are sexy. Software vendors work hard to make their dashboards shimmy with sex appeal. They taunt, "You don't want to be the only company in your neighborhood without one, do you?"
They warn, "You can no longer live without one." They whisper sweetly, "Still haven't achieved the expected return on investment (ROI) from your expensive data warehouse? Just stick a dashboard in front of it and watch the money pour in." Be still my heart.
Those gauges, meters, and traffic lights are so damn flashy! You can imagine that you're sitting behind the wheel of a German-engineered sports car, feeling the wind whip through your hair as you tear around curves on the autobahn at high speeds, all without leaving your desk.
Everyone wants a dashboard today, but often for the wrong reasons. Rest assured, however, that somewhere beyond the hype and sizzle lives a unique and effective solution to familiar business problems that are rooted in a very real need for information. That's the dashboard that deserves to live on your screen.