Data Analyst and Technical Consultant

Visualisation: Dashboard Design

Presenting data and focusing on design when creating a dashboard seems easy enough but there are some simple things you can do to make the message clearer and quicker for the user to understand.

Organise the dashboard

Users look first for information on the top and left, then down the left side, but the bottom and right may not be noticed at all.


White Space is your friend

Maximising slide real estate also means creating places for the eye to “rest” so that the non-white space has more impact.  When we don’t have sufficient spacing, everything runs together and we can’t see what is most important.



Colour draws your eye to what is important and ties together similar things.  Increase brightness and maximise contrast to attract attention and make a point seem more important.  Use flat colours, not gradients, it makes the scale clearer.



The key is for your message to be easy to read and understand.  More is not always better when selecting a set of fonts.  Use readable labels and don’t repeat yourself.  It’s not necessary to have both a legend and a title for single series graphs.


Chart Types

There are two major types of data:

  • Categorical – gender, colour
  • Quantitative – age, weight, number of children


Bar Chart: For categorical data

  • Use 5 – 7 categories
  • Use the horizontal axis for time
  • Always start scales at 0
  • Consider using horizontal bars as they can be easier to read


Line Chart: Trends over time

  • Use data labels to point out important trends
  • Keep intervals equal and don’t skip data points
  • Consider combining with a bar chart to answer more questions


Scatter Plot: Relationship between two variables

  • Data points show the point of intersection between the two variables.
  • Outliers skew the data so watch out for these


Pie Chart: Proportions of a whole

  • Only use two-three variables, the message gets lost with more
  • DO NOT use 3D pie charts as it is impossible to see the size of the pieces



Use tables when:

  • You need to compare or look up individual values.
  • You require precise values.
  • Values involve multiple units of measure.
  • The data has to communicate quantitative information, but not trends.

Use charts when the data presentation:

  • Is used to convey a message that is contained in the shape of the data.
  • Is used to show a relationship between many values.