Data Visualization Dashboard: Benefits, Types, and Examples
Ever since kindergarten, operations have been represented with images. Two pigs, one giraffe, and three mice, how many animals are that? Humans are visual creatures; throughout each stage and sphere of life, we tend to find ways to translate events and facts into pictures.
The title of this article tells you exactly what it will be about: interactive dashboards that help visualize data. Every company generates data that needs to be collected and processed so it can be used to make informed business decisions. When you think about it, even going on a diet after the holidays is a pile of data that can be transformed into eye-pleasing line charts and histograms. So, let’s discover all the aspects of data visualization!
What is a data visualization dashboard?
First off, we need to define data visualization. There’s no big philosophy here; it’s representing data and information in a graphical way. Of course, when we talk about data visualization in the business world, there are no pigs or giraffes. They are replaced by graphs, bar charts, pie charts, and other clever ways that turn boring metrics into presentable information.
Now that we got this definition out of the way, we can talk about data visualization dashboards. They are multiple data visualizations grouped in certain data points to achieve a set of goals. For example, data visualization would be a graph that shows the growing dynamics of leads; a dashboard would consist of the mentioned graph, a pie chart that shows the percentage of leads per channel, scorecards showing the number of leads and their quality, and other graphic indicators.
The goal of this dashboard could be to have a quick overview at the company’s customer base or to make a presentation to third-party stakeholders. Every dashboard is different and created with its purpose in mind.
What is the purpose of using a dashboard for data visualization?
The purpose of using dashboards is to present complex data in an easy-to-understand and actionable format. Dashboards provide a way to organize and display data clearly and concisely, allowing users to identify key trends, patterns, and insights quickly. This will let them make more informed decisions driven by data and improve their organization’s performance.
As with so many modern tools, data visualization dashboards are the result of technological evolution and the need to simplify processes. People who work in sales can testify that the possibilities have broadened in the past decade alone and that reporting systems can’t keep up with the amount and variety of available data. This industry isn’t the only one that has seen a significant leap in data sources. SEO specialists, UX designers, and anyone in the cryptocurrency business have many more tools and information at their disposal than ever before.
Overall, the main purpose of using data visualization dashboards is to provide an easy way to access and understand important data for the stakeholders.
The more data sources, the more places to look for information, and the room for errors is wider. If you have a spreadsheet stuffed with thousands of rows, it is difficult to read and comprehend the insights it contains. Data visualization dashboards solve this pain point by digesting the most important business metrics in a visual collage to be overviewed daily.
Common types of dashboards
Since we established data visualization dashboards exist and are created to make a manager’s life easier, we can now discuss the different types of dashboards you can use for your own business needs. Generally, there are four types of dashboards: operational, tactical, strategic, and analytical. However, we enhanced our list to give you a wider picture of what data visualization dashboards you can encounter.
- Operational dashboards
- Tactical dashboards
- Strategic dashboards
- Analytical dashboards
- KPI (Key Performance Indicator) dashboards
- Scorecard dashboards
- Geographic dashboards
- Executive dashboards
- Mobile dashboards
Operational dashboards are interactive visual displays that provide real-time information about the performance of day-to-day operations in an organization. They are used to track and monitor operations with a short time horizon at the lowest management levels. They can be used in all sorts of departments to keep an eye on metrics in real time and are the most widely used business intelligence tools.
Dashboards of this type are usually very detailed and provide junior managers with the necessary heads-up to react to market changes and alert upper management of upcoming trends or concerning matters before they become significant. They are typically used by managers and supervisors to monitor the status of ongoing activities and to make quick decisions based on the information presented. Operational dashboards often present data in the form of graphs, charts, and tables, and can be tailored to show specific information that is relevant to the user.
Some examples of information that may be displayed on an operational dashboard include:
- Sales figures
- Production metrics
- Inventory levels
- Service levels
- Employee performance metrics
- Machine or equipment performance data
- Customer service metrics
- Website or social media metrics
It’s important to note that operational dashboards are different from other types of dashboards such as strategic and analytical dashboards, that have different purposes and audiences, and the data and the metrics are different.
In the management world, tactical plans and decisions are those that concern mid-term steps in achieving strategic goals. Tactical dashboards are used to provide real-time visibility into key performance indicators (KPIs) and other important metrics, and allow users to quickly identify trends and patterns that can inform decision-making. Tactical dashboards are more analytical when compared to operational ones.
For example, sales operational dashboards track how sales records of a certain product or group of products fluctuate from day to day, while a sales tactical dashboard compares weekly or monthly results to their respective forecasts. A project management tactical dashboard could measure the average amount of hours it takes to complete certain assignments or track the percentage of estimated vs. tracked time on tasks. The conclusions these data analytics dashboards generate can then be applied to tweaking strategic goals or adjusting operational goals.
Whenever strategy is mentioned, it’s implied the top management and long-term decisions are discussed. Strategic dashboards provide high-level information about the overall performance of an organization and are used by senior management to make strategic decisions. These dashboards are typically used to monitor the progress of key performance indicators (KPIs) that are critical to the success of the organization and to identify trends and patterns in the data that can inform strategic decision-making.
Strategic dashboards are different from operational and tactical dashboards as they provide a higher-level view of the organization, and they’re intended to be used by senior management to make strategic decisions. A SaaS strategic management dashboard would overview its customer base, its lifetime value and acquisition cost, total revenue, and costs. In marketing, such a dashboard wouldn’t go into click-through rates of specific emails. It would analyze the success of marketing campaigns in terms of newly acquired customers and the costs vs. the generated sales. We’ve even created a separate blog post dedicated to marketing data visualization. Some examples of information that may be displayed on a strategic dashboard include:
- Revenue and profit margins
- Market share
- Customer satisfaction rates
- Employee turnover
- Production efficiency
- Inventory levels
- Website or social media metrics
As their name states, analytical dashboards analyze a vast amount of data in a user-friendly way. Analytical dashboards provide detailed information about specific areas of the business and are used by analysts and data scientists to explore and understand data. These dashboards help executives make well-informed choices and are often used as an information bridge between operational and strategic levels, just like tactical management.
Unlike tactical dashboards, however, analytical dashboards deal with specific topics, for example, finance. In the eCommerce industry, the topic in question could be a data analysis of keywords used in marketing campaigns and their CPCs. The decisions made after careful consideration of the data visualization on these dashboards are applied on tactical and operational levels. Some examples of information that may be displayed on an analytical dashboard include:
- Detailed sales figures by product or region
- Trends in customer behavior
- Employee performance metrics
- Production efficiency metrics
- Inventory levels
- Website or social media metrics
Bonus: KPI, scorecard, geographic, executive, and mobile dashboards
As we mentioned above, we enhanced our list of main types of dashboards with the types that can be useful for your project. We’ll check them out in brief.
- KPI dashboards focus on specific metrics that are important to an organization and are used to track progress toward goals. These dashboards are typically used by managers, supervisors, and other key stakeholders to monitor the performance of the organization, and to identify areas where improvements can be made. Examples of information that may be displayed on a KPI dashboard include: sales figures, production metrics, inventory levels, employee performance, and customer service metrics, etc.
KPI dashboards are different from other types of dashboards, such as operational, strategic, or analytical dashboards as they focus on specific key performance indicators. In addition, they’re intended to track progress towards goals, while operational, strategic, and analytical dashboards are intended for managers and supervisors, senior management, or analysts, respectively.
- Scorecard dashboards provide an overview of an organization’s performance across multiple metrics and are used to evaluate progress towards overall goals. These dashboards are commonly used in combination with other types of dashboards to provide a more complete picture of the organization’s performance. Scorecard dashboards can provide a holistic view of an organization’s performance regarding sales figures, production metrics, service levels, etc.
- Geographic dashboards display data on a map and are used to identify patterns and trends in data that may not be immediately apparent when looking at raw data. These dashboards can include different forms of visualizations such as points, lines, polygons, and others. Geographic dashboards are meant to visualize data with a location component such as customer locations, sales data by region, and distribution of assets.
- Executive dashboards provide a high-level overview of an organization’s performance and are designed to be accessible to executives and other key stakeholders. These dashboards are typically used by senior management to monitor the overall performance of the organization and make strategic decisions. The design of executive dashboards is supposed to make them simple, easy-to-read, and provide a quick snapshot of the most important information. The information that can be displayed on an executive dashboard includes revenue and profit margins, market share, employee turnover, etc.
- Mobile dashboards are designed to be accessed and viewed on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. These dashboards are typically used to provide on-the-go access to important information and to allow users to make decisions and take action based on the data displayed.
Dashboard design: how to make a data visualization dashboard?
Basically, there are three options for you to get a data visualization dashboard:
- Use a preset template. Such dashboard templates are usually created in spreadsheet apps like Google Sheets or data visualization tools like Looker. With these templates, you get a ready-to-use dashboard with a design that you can tune for your needs. All you need to do is connect your data source to this template and enjoy it.
- Build a dashboard yourself. This is a long journey since you’ll need to choose a tool for your data visualization dashboard and build it from scratch. On one hand, you can tailor a custom solution considering all your likings. On the other hand, you’ll need to have knowledge and experience in using the particular data visualization tool and spend time on getting things done. Knowing the essential data visualization best practices will be quite useful if you want to take this journey.
- Hire an expert service to tailor your data visualization dashboard. This option is the best when you lack knowledge or time to build your dashboard by hand. So, you ask an expert or group of experts to implement your ideas. As a result, you’ll get a ready-to-use solution designed by professionals in a quick way. For example, Coupler.io offers a data analytics service designed to deal with advanced data management and visualization tasks.
Different users choose different options based on their resources and requirements. Startups and small entrepreneurs tend to go with templates or the DIY method. Small to medium sized businesses can already afford to hire experts to streamline their reporting and analytics via dashboards. Large companies can also opt for third-party experts, but in most cases, they already have data analysts hired, so they can build their dashboards in-house.
If you consider the DIY option as well, check out what steps you’ll have to take.
Steps to build a data visualization dashboard yourself
- Define and interview your audience. The eyes you’ll be presenting a business dashboard to affect its structure greatly. If you’re creating it for your own analysis, the sky is the limit. You can make more than one dashboard, each filled with the data you think needs to be tracked. If you’re making it for the top managers, your choices are narrowed down. You’ll figure out sooner or later what they’re interested in, and you’ll make sure those metrics are represented in a simple way. The last thing you want is a confused manager who requires additional reports and 3-hour-long meetings just to figure out the numbers. On the other side, there are clients. Now, the ones you already do business with want to check where’s your team at with tasks and budget. Make sure you use the early meetings to figure out what they want to know, so you can set up a standard dashboard they’ll look at each time you meet. This way, they’ll know what to expect and can track changes easily. Finally, potential clients can take a look at a dashboard that represents your company’s success. Naturally, this type of dashboard will also be updated, but it won’t have to be altered significantly for each potential client. Create the best visual representation of your data and use it when pitching your services.
- Define the dashboard’s metrics. Once you’ve established your audience, you should have a clearer picture of the metrics that will find their way to your dashboard. Sometimes, you’ll need to track the trends of CTRs, sales, website visits, or return rates. Other times, colorful pie charts of customer group scans or product variety will be needed. In any case, before getting started with data extraction and data visualization, you need to be sure what you want to show.
- Choose a data visualization software. The app market offers many solutions, and soon you’ll discover the most popular ones, like Google Looker Studio, Domo, or Tableau. Here’s a piece of advice: read the reviews. You’ll get a clearer picture of what it’s like to use a certain app before even starting to compare pricing plans.
- Connect your data. Most people use Excel or Google Sheets to collect and sort their data, whether it’s sales reports, ad results, inventory status, or website visits. It’s tricky when you have multiple sources and need to get them all in one place. Coupler.io can help in this step, as you can connect it to one of the 33 apps from the list. Link your account, select the file and the source sheet(s), the range, a destination app and account, select the preferred import mode, and schedule automatic data refreshing. You can change the interval and scheduled time of data updates at any time or turn it off completely. Whatever is the purpose of your dashboard, you’ll want it to have fresh data. Coupler.io can save you time, so you don’t have to keep updating it manually.
- Share your data visualization dashboard. Most data visualization software has options to share your dashboards with your team. Some data dashboards you’ll want to keep for yourself, some will be shared only with your managers, and some will be available to the entire team. It’s an excellent way to keep everyone updated and on the same page.
- Ask for feedback and update the dashboard if needed. The first version of your dashboard might not be the final one. Ask your managers, clients, and team members if the information on it is vital or redundant and whether it’s clear enough. After all, you can keep as many versions as you want for yourself and tweak the ones that others use as well.
Other data visualization dashboard examples
Not to repeat ourselves, but technology has advanced, and many software companies have expanded their apps to cover a wide range of customer needs. We’ll go over some popular apps that might help you with creating data visualization dashboards.
Monday.com — This app is mostly used for project management, but they also offer pre-made templates for overviewing processes. It’s possible to create private dashboards or share them with the team. Their interactivity will save everyone precious work hours.
Microsoft Power BI — As you might imagine, this tool is among the most serious when it comes to interactive types of visualizations. Power BI allows you to create a dashboard design that will convey important metrics on a single page. You can also hover over single tiles to view more detailed data and open a report by selecting the visualization you’re interested in.
Tableau — This is one of the leading BI solutions that let you make better decisions by automating data dashboards. You can choose a cloud-based experience, follow their tutorials, and oversee key metrics in a comprehensive way.
Data visualization: benefits of using dashboards
Let’s wrap up this topic by concluding the main benefits of using data visualization dashboards.
Help decision-makers— Managers from junior to senior levels need to overview data to make well-informed decisions. Dashboards offer visual cues that help track changes on a daily basis. The higher the management level, the more complex reports become, and it gets more difficult to keep track of important metrics.
Save company time— The reports managers need to review are usually put together by one or more team members or by the managers themselves. Creating automated dashboards saves time, as the BI apps do most of the work instead of having to drag-and-drop datasets around. The saved time can be invested in carefully assessing analyzed data and finding new ways of improving information workflows.
Improve collaboration— Most of the tools we talked about feature private and public dashboards. Data can be centralized and shared with the team and clients. This way, everyone will be on the same page, and they’ll be able to access important documents faster. The most significant issues most companies face are linked to bad communication and misplaced information. A unique view that gathers vital data visualizations can help prevent both these problems.
Preventing business-threatening issues— Avalanches can start small and become deadly and devastating. The same goes for business records that aren’t spotted on time. For example, a rising trend in manufacturing costs can eat up the company’s profits if not addressed on time. This is why it’s important to keep constant watch over metrics on an organizational, tactical, and strategic level.
This completes our breakdown of data dashboards and interactive visualizations! We hope it will inspire you to try creating one of your own and start analyzing data in an automated and comprehensive way.
Data visualization dashboard – DIY or hire an expert?
Whether to build a data visualization dashboard yourself or hire an expert depends on several factors, including your organization’s resources and the complexity of the data and dashboard.
However, if the data is complex and the dashboard requirements are more advanced, it may be more efficient to hire an expert service. In this case, you will be able to design and implement a dashboard that is tailored to your specific needs. Plus you’ll be provided with guidance on the best tools and techniques to use. If you don’t have the time or the expertise to build the dashboard yourself, hiring an expert can save you time and ensure that the dashboard is built correctly.
Ultimately, the decision to build a data visualization dashboard yourself or hire an expert will depend on your organization’s specific needs, resources, and goals. It may be worth considering a combination of both, using an expert’s help to get started and then maintaining the dashboard yourself. Weigh the pros and cons of sparing an employee’s hours for this purpose and hiring an expert who knows what they’re doing. Chances are you’ll save both time and money if you reach out to an experienced team and let them help you create a data visualization dashboard that will let you overview vital metrics!Back to Blog