Presenting substantial data may seem like an overwhelming task. Visual communication — whether via dashboard, infographic, microsite, motion graphic, or something else entirely — is an effective tool for communicating complex information to your audience. If you’ve established that a visual dashboard is one type of collateral that can make a difference in your organization, it’s essential that its design supports your communication goals.
Tip 1: Keep It Clear
As of 2017, only 1 in 5 business leaders and professionals are data literate. To ensure your visual content communicates your data’s meaning quickly and accurately, correctly visualizing information must be a priority — this applies no matter what type of visual content you’re producing.
Here’s a quick overview for choosing the right kind of visualization for your dashboard:
- If you have categorical data, use bar graphs
- If you have data based on change over time, use line graphs
- If you have data sets based out of 100, use donut or pie charts
Read more about data visualization best practices here.
Tip 2: Keep It Clickable
One of the benefits of interactive dashboards is that you have a platform where users can dive in and explore to learn as much as they like. To keep users engaged, make the most of this medium by establishing an effective hierarchy. Showcasing high-level data will offer viewers a clear narrative and key takeaways, so that they can gather insights quickly — and encourage them to learn more.
Keeping complex data available at a “click” basis keeps your dashboard’s main page free of clutter and ensures that users get the information they need without getting bogged down in the details. With a dashboard, you have the advantage of saving your data sets for those who need them most, and acting on this helps build curiosity and engagement.
Tip 3: Keep It Simple
Effective data visualization and organization set your dashboard up for success — but if the overall visual aesthetic is flawed, you may be in danger of losing your audience’s attention. Whether you’re working with an individual dashboard or a set of infographics, keeping your design clean and approachable is essential. Consider navigation, white space, and visual style — the look and feel of your dashboard will set the tone for your users and (depending on your dashboard’s goals) further your brand’s awareness and increase productivity.
Even if you have a lot of data to communicate, there are ways to design with your audience in mind. Consistency also makes a difference — humans understand regular, even, and orderly patterns more quickly than complex ones. So, arrange your data with simplicity in mind to boost comprehension no matter the subject matter.
Dashboard or Infographics?
Both interactive dashboards and infographics can use data visualizations to help communicate information or findings, but while visual communication is still central to both mediums, infographics and interactive dashboards support slightly different goals.
If you have a large data set and want your viewers to be able to explore as they like, an interactive dashboard is most likely the best approach. However, if you have specific insights or narratives in your data — or if you have multiple audiences — infographics may communicate your message succinctly while providing opportunities to adjust tone or style as needed. (And, if you’d like to keep those infographics accessible to all, a landing page can still let you host the information in one place!)
With either visual communication method, relying on design best practices can ensure your data puts its best face forward to your audience.