Dashboard Design Best Practices for BI Projects

Business Intelligence projects are not as simple as they seem at first glance. When starting such projects, companies must consider aligning their business goals with the project objectives in a way that will help them make data-driven decisions after the implementation. However, after passing all these implementation matters, organizations face sometimes challenges in understanding their data. Pure numbers might be just numbers in the eyes of non-technical users, with no connection to other pieces of information. But how about visual numbers? Could these graphs and visuals make data more accessible? We firmly believe so, and we also have some proof.

Neuroscience studies revealed that our brain is naturally programmed to read and process information that is displayed in a visual form. And here is the primary purpose of data visualization tools integrated with the Business Intelligence solutions. Gathering the business requirements and defining the specific KPIs to create a data model should not be the only concerns for companies. There is one more thing to consider: dashboard design. The challenge here is that it could put companies in the position to miss essential results and even make data less understandable. In this context, organizations can enhance their knowledge about the business through data visualization tools and design elements that create interactive dashboards.

Before discussing some general design principles for Business Intelligence solutions that anyone should consider, we should see how a well-design dashboard looks like. Here are few questions that should have an affirmative answer:

Does it make complex data accessible to users?

Omni-channel business strategies help organizations be present wherever the audience is, which makes the data storage to increase from one second to another. To be able to use this information collected from various sources, the BI dashboard must transform advanced sheets and files into well-defined visual reports.

Is everything clear for users?

There is no place for concessions when it comes to business opportunities, and that is why organizations need to see the big picture, understand data and connect it. With the right dashboard, companies will do that without effort.

Is data visualization showing the correct data?

Once again, in the business playground, companies can’t mistake anything. This rule applies to dashboard design too. The ideal scenario, which isn’t something utopic, is that the dashboard will let users visualize portions of data, and represent it adequately.

Can users access more details?

A BI solution can be implemented into a company to reach various specific objectives. That means that different departments will use it to optimize their operations. Having a well-design dashboard will let users create reports and access data in a more granular view so that they can answer specific questions.

We can understand that creating an active dashboard requires attention to many details. Yet, there are four essential principles that companies should consider when starting this complex project.

The First Glance Answer

According to the latest studies, it became harder to keep people interested in something for a more extended period. The average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds between 2000 and 2013, and the researchers believe it will fall to about five seconds shortly.

Companies should create dashboards that provide relevant information in minimum time. If users search for minutes into a panel without finding their answers, enterprises should understand that there is a problem with the visual layout. However, detailed investigations could take longer, but the most common metrics should be accessible immediately.

The Funnel

Companies might believe that this rule is pointless, but it is an essential principle in creating well-designed dashboards. In many domains and industries, we’ve heard about the concepts of displaying information as a funnel or as an inverted pyramid. Both refer to the fact that materials should be divided into three parts, each of them containing various types of information: basic information, context information, detailed information.

BI specialists use these concepts in designing compelling dashboards for users. In other words, a BI dashboard should always display the most significant insights on the top of it, followed by the information describing the context in which we can apply those insights, and at the bottom the details that could be accessed by individuals.


Once again, we can learn many things from scientific studies. According to psychologists, the working memory of the human brain can comprehend only seven elements at once (plus/minus two), transforming dashboards with many visuals into a complete cluster.

Of course, this is not what companies intend to do with their dashboards. The ideal option is to include between 5 to 9 data visualization types into a dashboard and give the opportunity to users to access more detailed information in separate sections, dedicated to their needs.

Data Visualizations Tools

We know now how many visuals to use in a dashboard, but how do we choose them? First of all, understanding the type of data that will be converted into visuals will determine the kind of data visualization that can perfectly suit it. Fortunately, organizations have a wide range of options to choose from, and here are only a few examples:

  • Graphs: bar charts, bubble charts, histograms, line graphs, area graphs etc.
  • Diagrams: arc diagram, flow charts, timeline, tree diagram, illustration diagram etc.
  • Tables: calendar, heatmap, tally charts, timetable etc.
  • Others: parallel sets, donut charts, word cloud, treemap etc.

Business Intelligence dashboards offer many companies the opportunity to visualize their data and make it comprehensible for various users. By applying the principles above, companies can make sure that relevant information will bring future business value. However, to apply the best practices we’ve analyzed above, companies must implement customized Business Intelligence solutions. Such technologies will give companies the ability to create interactive dashboards that will make complex data look simpler.