The key dashboard design principles behind effective insight generation

The key dashboard design principles behind effective insight generation

To maintain business viability and understand your organisation’s trajectory, it’s essential that you and your team have access to the right data to steer effective decisions. However, the key determinant of successful decision-making is the digestibility of your insights. This means having information displayed through visualisations that exponentially enhance the value of your data analysis. Since the human brain is more likely to take in information through a visual format, it’s doubly important to ensure your reporting is presented in a visually engaging manner. That’s where dashboard design principles come in. 

But even with various dashboard tools and options at your disposal, it’s easy to get carried away and end up creating dashboards that are all style and no substance. This is why it’s important to ensure you follow a core set of dashboard design principles which we outline below.  

1. Determine your business goals

In today’s digital age, you can find stats, facts and figures on almost anything, but it doesn’t mean that you need them all. In fact, one of the most important things you can do when setting out on producing insightful reports is to know what you need and what you don’t need.

That’s why it’s necessary to set goals and relevant KPIs to help you achieve those goals. Taking the time to understand the key metrics that are relevant to your specific business can give you a real edge. And be ruthless – do not be afraid to disregard data that isn’t relevant. After all, being able to hone in on those few key things will help make sure that you are not getting bogged down in unnecessary information that could distract or confuse you. This is where engaging business users is absolutely critical. Getting them involved in the design, target state discussions and workshopping concepts with them to meet their needs will help determine specific objectives and KPIs.

2. Select the right, activity-based dashboard

With the KPIs and goals in place, you can narrow your decision for the dashboard that best suits your business needs. The typical approach followed for the design and functionality of end-user dashboards will vary across a broad spectrum for each of the following four categories: 


If you really want to dive into the details of your reporting then an operational dashboard might be for you. This type of dashboard provides insights into what is happening right now, allowing you to get really granular with your information and understand your business on a day-to-day basis rather than over a longer period of time. An operational dashboard is useful for managers to simply and efficiently track KPIs and make sure that core processes stay within the business-specific parameters of quality and efficiency.


Strategic dashboards are primarily designed to monitor the status of your set KPIs and tend to be generated less frequently than operational dashboards. As opposed to the day-to-day focus of an operational dashboard, strategic dashboards tend to focus on a longer period of time (month, quarter, year) and a more top-level account of your company’s outputs. This type of dashboard is most commonly used by senior management professionals in enterprises, such as business owners, CEOs, and vice presidents, to measure performance against company-wide strategic goals.


If you need to crunch huge amounts of data, then an analytical dashboard might be just the thing for you. These types of dashboards are developed to use past and present data to predict potential future outcomes and understand trends. Analytical dashboards are useful for categorising large and broad information suites, and for visualising complex data. They require advanced data science, statistics, and analytics to ensure they present historical data in a way that is interpretable for their intended audience. This means that they’re commonly used by data analysts or data scientists.  


Traditionally, tactical dashboards are primarily used in the analysis and monitoring by middle management in a bid to keep up to date with their team’s performance and formulate more of an in-depth business analysis. By tracking the performance across the company at this level, those in middle management roles are able to extrapolate the data, understand how they are working towards overall company goals and develop growth strategies accordingly. 

3. Display information simply and clearly 

After determining the most suitable type of dashboard, it’s time to think about exactly what data you want to include in your reports. An essential dashboard design principle is to present the information as clearly as possible, for example, using the right charts and graphs that best display your data in a synthesised manner. Prioritising simplicity over complexity is critical in helping to avoid visual clutter. So it’s important that you don’t overload the dashboard with too much information that may not be necessary to the given project or business initiative.

You should also try to optimise your dashboard for multiple different formats so your data can paint a clear picture, regardless of the medium being used. That means your information should be displayed in a responsive format so it can be consumed on a big projector or a mobile phone.

4. Ensure visual and functional consistency

Consistency is key throughout your dashboard design as it enhances the visual appeal. For example, if you have a 2mm border around a text box then you need the exact same sized border around every other text box. Colour consistency also plays a big part in the visual consumption of information so it’s important to tone down colour options while ensuring you adhere to brand guidelines at every step of the way. 

It’s also important that you use consistent labelling and formatting across the entire dashboard for functional purposes so as to allow users to extract the data as quickly and effectively as possible without creating confusion. The fact is, the easier the data is to digest, the more impactful it will be. 

5. Let your data tell a story 

It’s also best practice to make sure that your report tells a story. A clear story can be anything from a data narrative, to a demonstration of how decisions affect outcomes, to a way of simply providing further context. For this, you need to consider things like whether you want your story to be about trends over time or if you want your story to be a comparison between two different values. Tableau, one of our technology partners, explains data storytelling as a way of being able to generate narrative insights within your dashboard, with those most relevant at the surface. 

This allows you to take a deeper dive into the data and identify key insights in rapid time. A powerful data story is intended to provide a summary of your business information, ensuring that it only contains project-critical details and has customised terms and metrics that correspond with your business semantics. 

Being able to identify key information efficiently and easily will help accelerate the growth and development of your organisation. By employing dashboard design principles, you can transform your business data into strategic, actionable insights. To learn more about how to implement effective dashboards tailored to your business needs, contact us today.

To learn more about how Optivia’s skilled and experienced business analysts can power incredible efficiencies in your organisation, contact us.

At Optivia, we’re seasoned experts in improving enterprise operational efficiency. We leverage real-time data to give you access to the right information to help you automate processes and optimise resource management. If you want to streamline your operating environment, build business agility and make data-backed decisions, contact us today.