A Dozen Ways to Improve Dashboard Design (5-8)

By: Eric Parker

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Eric lives in Seattle and has been teaching Tableau and Alteryx for 5 years. He's helped thousands of students solve their most pressing problems. If you have a question, feel free to reach out to him directly via email.

This is a continuation of a previous blog post. You can find that here.     

When we last left off this was our dashboard:


Markedly improved from what it was previously, but not finished. Let’s continue with our steps.

5. Use Colors Consistently

You can imagine how confusing this dashboard would be if the use of colors wasn’t consistent. This dashboard ties together nicely right now because the consistent use of the color green lets you know that the section of the bottom bars or the donuts on the right correspond to the Science department. Imagine if it looked like this:


Isn’t that blue confusing? Even though it’s obvious as I point it out that you shouldn’t do this, it happens all the time. Using colors consistently helps create and maintain continuity for your end users.

6. Mind Color Density

What do you want your end user focused on in your visual? This should be the area of your most dense and vibrant colors. In this example, we are trying to draw attention to areas where departments are using a lot of space. Here are a couple tweaks to help draw attention to relevant point of interest even more:


I lightened the grays so the green is a stronger, denser color that stands out more. I also washed out the background of the college campus map so the donuts stand out even further.

7. Utilize Info Buttons

I see people get in trouble often by putting too much text on a dashboard. As a general rule, you want to try and limit the amount of text on a dashboard. If there’s text, users will read that text and it may take away from their focus on the data itself. Instead of cramming text on the screen, consider putting it into an info button.

If you haven’t built an info button in Tableau before, check out this tutorial. They are a great way of packing any of the following information into your dashboard:

●        Instructions

●        Definitions

●        Data Source Info

●        Data Refresh Dates

●        Contact Info

Notice the difference between having all the text on screen:


Versus having it in an info button:


8. Take Advantage of Tooltips

There are two reasons to focus on tooltips in Tableau. First, they may look messy and contain information you don’t want to communicate to end users. Second, there might be additional, helpful information you can include.

Check out the tooltip for the first bar chart:


Not particularly informative or helpful. Those “Highlight” labels are really just background information anyways. Something like this is probably more useful:


Check out the next blog post for steps 9-12.

Want to learn more dashboarding design tips? Check out our newest workshop; Tableau Dashboarding: From Mystery to Mastery.