"A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives. Key information is arranged on a single screen so it can be monitored at a glance."
Typically, dashboards can be used by managers, who will want to see at a glance only the most important information, which should either alert them when things are not going to plan or reassure them that no action is required. For that reason, the focus of a dashboard is on the user and the aspect of business they are responsible for.
There are many examples of dashboards which resemble a car dashboard design and include graphical display mechanisms such as traffic lights, fuel gauges and speedometers.
While this type of presentation can be reassuringly familiar, it doesn’t always provide the best method of communicating a message. Insisting on a colourful and picture-like display, when a simple set of well designed bar charts and trend lines might do a better job, may end up defeating the purposes of clarity and improved understanding.
Similar to individual graphs, effective dashboards are best kept simple. This design rule is even more important when you consider the limited screen space available to show a collection of visual displays.
According to Stephen Few, one of the experts in that field, a dashboard must fit into one screen and be available within the viewer’s eye span so it can be all seen at a glance. The limited screen estate becomes even more precious with the proliferation of mobile devices (tablets, laptops and mobile phones) used increasingly to access business intelligence dashboards.