Several circumstances have recently combined to create a timely opportunity for dashboards to add value to the workplace, including technologies such as high-resolution graphics, emphasis on performance management and metrics, and a growing recognition of visual perception as a powerful channel for information acquisition and comprehension. Dashboards offer a unique solution to the problem of information overloadnot a complete solution by any means, but one that helps a lot. As Dr. Hovis wrote in that same article in DM Direct:
The real value of dashboard products lies in their ability to replace hunt-and-peck data-gathering techniques with a tireless, adaptable, information-flow mechanism. Dashboards transform data repositories into consumable information.
Note: Gregory L. Hovis, "Stop Searching for InformationMonitor it with Dashboard Technology," DM Direct, February 2002
Dashboards aren't all that different from some of the other means of presenting information, but when properly designed the single-screen display of integrated and finely tuned data can deliver insight in an especially powerful way.
Note: Richard Brath and Michael Peters, "Dashboard Design: Why Design is Important," DM Direct, October 2004
Dashboards and visualization are cognitive tools that improve your "span of control" over a lot of business data. These tools help people visually identify trends, patterns and anomalies, reason about what they see and help guide them toward effective decisions. As such, these tools need to leverage people's visual capabilities. With the prevalence of scorecards, dashboards and other visualization tools now widely available for business users to review their data, the issue of visual information design is more important than ever.
The final sentiment that Brath and Peters expressed in this excerpt from their article underscores the purpose of this book. As data visualization becomes increasingly common as a means of business communication, it is imperative that expertise in data visualization be acquired. This expertise must be grounded in an understanding of visual perception, and of how this understanding can be effectively applied to the visual display of datawhat works, what doesn't, and why. These skills are rarely found in the business world, not because they are difficult to learn, but because the need to learn them is seldom recognized. This is true in general, and especially with regard to dashboards. The challenge of presenting a large assortment of data on a single screen in a way that produces immediate insight is by no means trivial. Buckle up; you're in for a fun ride.
Clarifying the Vision
Variations in Dashboard Uses and Data
Thirteen Common Mistakes in Dashboard Design
Tapping into the Power of Visual Perception
Eloquence Through Simplicity
Effective Dashboard Display Media
Designing Dashboards for Usability
Putting It All Together