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Designing business dashboards can be challenging at times, especially when the requirement list is way too long, and you have a tight delivery deadline. Under such circumstances, you don't get much time to do user research and find out how easy, efficient and compelling the dashboard is for the end-user using it.

This blog post focuses on the top 5 design tips, when applied to SAP Analytics Cloud dashboards, can enhance the overall user experience and make it super compelling.


1. Keep the most important KPI's on the face

As per the BBC article "Busting the attention span myth ", users' average attention span has come down from 12 sec in 2000 to 8 sec now. This means if you don't keep the important information at the strategic position on the screen, it is likely to get missed or even ignored.

When you are creating a dashboard that requires immediate attention and response from the user, make sure the information is placed where the eye glance falls directly when the user opens the dashboard, just like the newspaper headlines, big and bold.

To have super-efficient comprehension, position the KPI's to follow natural eye movements rather than scattering them.

Image Credit:

2. Group related information

There is nothing more irritating than a dashboard which you have to spend long hours contemplating to understand what's going. Some of the key reasons for such a confusing dashboard are visual overload, scattering information with no logical clustering, and placing related information in multiple tabs. It is extremely difficult and time-consuming for dashboard users when they have to inference information by connecting dots from multiple visualizations/tabs.

To make the dashboard super easy and visually pleasurable, group related information and visually separate the groups. Provide a clear, logical group header for associated information.

Create tabs to place information that is not logically connected and doesn't require users to cross-reference from other tabs.

Always group the information into smaller chunks for a better grasp.

Image Credit: Raghuraman Ramakrishnan

3. Use Semantic / Industry-Specific Colors on your dashboard

Colours play a very vital role in dashboard design. If not used wisely, it can distract the users and create confusion. It can make the dashboard completely ineffective. 

Use colours to draw attention to critical alerts, highlight anomalies, and threshold transcend. Avoid using loud/bright colours to make the chart look cool or match the company branding style guide. Use industry specif or semantic colours to visualize the status or state of business data and draw attention to the areas it needs the most. Check out How To Use Semantic Colors / Industry-Specific Colors.




4. Keep the visualizations simple 

An ideal dashboard is all about storytelling with data. The simpler the visuals, the clearer will be the story. One of the biggest confusions while visualizing data is when the user has to learn the chart type and inference the information succeeded by text illegibility due to long labels. When both are put together, the visualization becomes completely unusable. Keep the labels crisp and short and use common chart types like Bar, Column, Line, Pie, and area. Here is a good reference guide on choosing the correct chart type.

Image Credit: Financial Analytics Dashboard for SAP Analytics Cloud

5. Let users make their own version

When the IT department creates a dashboard, pre-package the layout, content, labels, and pushes to the end-user, in a way, its dashboard bulldozing, it may not match with the most effective mental model for the specific user.

Letting users create their own versions / customize dashboards helps to match users' mental models. Maybe they want to keep the bare minimum, change charts types, reassemble the layout to match their preferences.

Enable options to customize the dashboard and finally, error-proof the dashboard customization by providing a reset button to bring the dashboard to default state, in case of any accidental user actions.


From my experience consulting for many customers on business dashboards, I genuinely believe that the above 5 design tips, when applied, will help you deliver more effective and compelling dashboards.

Please do drop me a line in the comments section if you find the tips helpful.

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