Dashboard design: UX case story

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Introduction: Dashboards on UNI platform were envisioned to be a one-stop destination for all statistical information regarding a particular entity. Since UNI has multiple features for varying user groups, one dashboard for all didn’t seem like a workable solution. So the project was to create a dashboard layout along with design guidelines which could be used anywhere by making minor tweaks.

Overview: For me, dashboards are one of the most interesting problems of communication design. There is data which needs to be communicated and there’s a user who is interested in the story. The entire game is to find an equilibrium between the capacity and limitations of the user with the information to form a narrative. A dashboard is not limited to colourful charts, bold text and quirky illustrations. It’s a canvas where a story is told.

Approach: To initiate the process, I began by studying multiple projects shared on Behance and Dribbble for inspiration. Soon I realized that in dashboard design, the visuals often tend to take form or art than serving a purpose. Where on a fundamental level, the function of a chart is to represent data in an easily understandable format, some projects used complex charts, purely for aesthetic reasons. Thus, I took the challenge of deviating from the common practice and presenting data in a simple and understandable format as possible. If simplicity comes at a cost of aesthetics, then be it.

This is the table for all the matrices to be presented in the dashboard. Had to blur the details.

Case study: While the initial study of projects did help, I still needed a solid case study to further analyze the needs and expectations, collect design ideas and finding patterns. For the purpose, I studied dashboards of Medium, Behance, Instagram and Google Analytics. While there were notable differences between dashboard of Google Analytics and the other three in terms of usage, depth and complexity, there were many interesting observations which helped me step towards my own design solution.

Instagram dashboard
Behance insights (Left) and Medium stats (right)

Key findings:

  1. User is interested in metrics, which can be directly or indirectly controlled by or an outcome of his/her actions. Anything apart from that is secondary/ unnecessary.
  2. Graphs do communicate large amounts of data effectively but also add to the cognitive load. Thus they must be used only when absolutely necessary. Key metrics can also be presented in textual format.
  3. Data is addictive.

Final outcome: After pondering over the findings followed by a series of iterations, I landed upon a design solution which did check most of the requirement boxes. Without compromising much on aesthetics, the solution allowed a user to understand the metrics without taking a course in data visualization ;)

Mockup of the final product

Here the key matrices which a user might want to check frequently are provided at top in textual format. The detailed stats are represented with the help of graphs below. To make it clean and less daunting, related matrices are clubbed together. Share and export functionality is provided to allow users to export a copy and share it wherever it deems fit.

Multi-disciplinary designer & Illustrator. I write whatever I’ve learnt so far about design, development and other things I care about.