6 Tips to Create the Perfect Data Dashboard

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So you’ve taken the plunge and you’re diving into setting up a data dashboard (and hopefully several) to track your business, operations, financial, and/or marketing metrics and KPIs. Your problem now is that you’ve got SO MANY OPTIONS! We understand. In today’s digital world, we’ve got an information overload. We can track almost anything so thinking about adding all of that to a data dashboard is a little overwhelming.

The trick is being efficient, targeted, and organized in your dashboards. Let’s dive into 6 tips that we’ve developed to help you report on what you should be reporting, to whom you should be reporting, and in a digestible way that isn’t overwhelming to the recipient.

  1. Determine the purpose

There are a seemingly endless number of data dashboards that you could build. The first step to creating the perfect dashboard is determining its purpose – and if a dashboard is actually necessary. Forcing a dashboard when one isn’t really necessary is a great way to waste a couple hours. We’ve seen it done several different ways, but here are three dashboard purposes that we think are pivotal for any business:

  • Operational Dashboard

An operational dashboard is a dashboard that you would use to monitor information that helps you identify efficiencies, issues, and opportunities in real-time. This type of dashboard would likely include information like website traffic through Google Analytics, messages through Basecamp, bank balances through Quickbooks or Freshbooks, customer support through Desk or Zendesk, and even upcoming events through Google Calendar.

This dashboard is one that will likely be monitored each day and will drive some of your actions and decision processes.

  • Strategic Dashboard

A strategic dashboard is one that will likely matter most to an executive, business owner, or board of directors. It’s a dashboard that would likely monitor items related to your businesses’ KPIs (key performance indicators) and should give you a high level view of the health of the business. This type of dashboard would likely include information like trending information through Google Trends, sales through Infusionsoft, Shopify, or Eventbrite, and even information on your conversion funnel through Unbounce.

A strategic dashboard will be different for each industry and each business because there are different metrics that matter most to each business, but these are some of the most common that are associated with most business’s key performance indicators.

  • Marketing Dashboard

A marketing dashboard is where you’ll track the effectiveness, progress, and return on investment of your marketing initiatives through all different channels. Really any sort of marketing campaign can be (and should be) tracked in a marketing dashboard, including traditional or offline marketing initiatives like print advertising and radio ads. This type of dashboard would likely include information like pay-per-click costs, clicks, impressions, and conversions through Google Adwords and Bing Ads, call logs through Marchex, email marketing effectiveness (opens, unsubscribes, bounces, clicks, etc.) through any of the many email marketing programs available, Moz ranks, social media analytics, and search engine optimization progress including keyword ranks and crawl errors.

This dashboard should give you a good idea of what is effective and what is lagging. A marketing dashboard should help you identify not only the tactics that are performing best and worst, but also the campaigns and content types that are performing best and worst.

  • Financial Dashboard

Your financial dashboard is a way to keep up with the financials of your business and have a snapshot at hand at all times. This can include information like your income, expenses, sales, customers, invoices, balances, vendors, subscriptions, deals, and proposals. It can be very inconvenient to have to log into each bank account, your accounting software, your ecommerce shop, and anywhere else your financial information may be in order to get a snapshot of how well you’re performing. Creating a financial data dashboard is a great way to get that information conveniently and to also measure it against previous cycles.

  • Competitors Dashboard

A competitor dashboard is an underutilized type of dashboard, but can be very enlightening and beneficial to your business growth. Within this dashboard you can monitor your competitor’s content through an RSS feed, social media growth and content, Moz rankings, keyword rankings, traffic ranking, reach, and even page views per user.

We all want to know what our competition is doing and understand what they’re doing well and not so well so that we can capitalize and grow our business. Creating a competitors dashboard is the first step.

 

  1. Determine the recipient

Next, you want to determine who the dashboard is actually for. Who is going to be monitoring it? As you can imagine, a dashboard for the CEO of the company and a dashboard for the marketing manager are likely going to be very different and the information that is important to each of these people is likely vastly different. It will also help you determine how in-depth the tracking and analytics actually need to go. Does it need to be just an overview or does it need to go into more specifics? Is it meant to be a very targeted board or a 30,000 foot view of the business?

As with any kind of content or report, keeping in mind who your audience is, is extremely important to the overall effectiveness of the material.

 

  1. Left to right

Now you’re on to building your data dashboard. Making sure that your content reads left to right is very important. We will all start at the top left (the most prime position on your dashboard) and move right. It seems logical and obvious right now, but it’s a very common mistake. So, because this is our natural course of reading, putting your most important or highest priority information on the top left is a best practice. Building out your dashboard should involve a fair amount of strategic placing. Information should be organized from most important on the top left to least important on the bottom right. Just thinking about it, if your viewer is going to skip something, get distracted, or not finish reading through the dashboard, the information in the bottom right is going to be the information that is missed. Don’t let that be your most important information.

 

  1. What’s actually important?

Like we talked about before, what’s actually important to one person may not be important to another. We also talked about the information overload that we’ve all got as businesses.

So – just because you can report on a metric doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Building out a super elaborate data dashboard is likely not your best course of action. It’s better to focus on your five to ten most important metrics and report on those for that particular dashboard. This obviously isn’t a strict cut off, but the more information you have on one dashboard, the more likely it is that something will be overlooked.

 

  1. Design

We’ve all seen the beautiful and amazingly designed dashboards that have tons of different colors, images, fonts, and backgrounds, and if you’re like most people, you were probably extremely distracted. There is just so much going on that it’s hard to actually focus on what’s important – the data. When it comes to the design of your dashboard, less is always more. Pick a handful (at most) of colors to focus on, stick to a single font, keep your images to a minimum (likely just a logo is necessary – if even that), and don’t use a background that overpowers the data.

You didn’t put all this effort into setting up useful dashboards that can help your business or specific divisions of your business grow just to have the data go unnoticed.

 

  1. Grouping

When you’re creating your data dashboard(s) you should really focus on specific topics and groups. Grouping content together in a comprehensible way is important to getting a complete overview and to making sure that your reader can actually digest the information presented.

For example, if you’re presenting on finances, grouping your Quickbooks information like income, expenses, recent payments, outstanding balances, customers, and vendors together will help you understand the information better in context than it will if that information is scattered throughout the financial dashboard with your leads, opportunities, proposals, and ticket sales from several other services or softwares.

 

Setting up a data dashboard, or several, can be a fun and exciting process, but it’s important to understand these six tips and utilize them from the start. With so much information that each of our businesses has, so many different sources of information, and all the extra clutter and design options, it’s easy to get carried away and end up undoing all of your work because it’s not a well set up dashboard.

 

Now that we’ve gone through all these tips, it’s time for you to start your own! Get started with Cyfe now! It’s FREE!

Get Started With Cyfe

Still a little unsure of where to start with your dashboards? Check out some of our favorite examples:

Startup Dashboard

Social Media Dashboard

Marketing Dashboard

Client Dashboard

Web Analytics Dashboard

Finance Dashboard

Sales Dashboard

Project Management Dashboard

IT Dashboard

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