Layout in Dashboard Design: 3 Guidelines to Follow

In previous blogs, we established and covered the importance of the audience in the planning process. Graph choice was next in beginning to build everything out. Both of these make up a large part of designing an effective dashboard.

The next step in building – and a significant one – is layout. Where do the graphs, visuals and texts belong on the screen? According to Stephen Few, one of the 13 most common mistakes in dashboard design is “arranging information poorly”. What can we do to ensure we don’t do this?

Let’s look at some guidelines:


1. Group content that belongs together.

For example, if you are comparing sales order size and trends, these should be placed together. This seems rather obvious but can be overlooked. We can often catch mistakes like this by doing UX testing. 

Use shading and white space
2. Use shading and white space to delineate a group of information.

Without white space or shading, your dashboard will look cluttered and crowded. Think about creating an “inviting” space. Not a labyrinth.

Group related content together
3. Showcase important information prominently. 

Avoid putting logos, graphics and other navigation controls in the upper left area of the screen. This is prime real estate reserved for what users will be looking at first. Know your visual hierarchy.

Showcase important information prominently
Another general rule of thumb (also known as Shneiderman’s mantra) named for Ben Shneiderman of the University of Maryland, is:

  • Overview first
  • Zoom and filter
  • Then add details on demand

Give your users an overview of the data required by your audience, choose graphs that allow them to explore relationships and finally, give them access to other information which may give more context to the analysis.

What do you think of these guidelines? Is there anything else you think about when designing your dashboard layout?

Marya Kaska

Marya Kaska is the co-founder of Dashboard Vision. The company will soon release its new data-to-insights reporting platform helping users take full advantage of powerful business intelligence and PowerPoint solutions.

Follow her on LinkedIn.

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