Stephen Few, information design expert, defines a data dashboard as a “visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives consolidated on a single screen (or page) so it can be monitored at a glance.”
Rad Resources: Few’s book, Information Dashboard Design, includes 13 common design mistakes, and explains how to tap into the power of visual perception. Understanding how our most powerful sense works is vital to designing effective data displays. Few’s blog and workshops are also valuable resources.
Plan your data dashboard implementation in two phases.
Phase A: identification/formulation of metrics.
Phase B: design the dashboard based on who will use the tool, its frequency of use, and the decisions it will inform. Use sample data of key metrics to facilitate appropriate graph selection and layout.
Rad Resources: Stacy Barr, performance measurement specialist, shares free and practical resources to guide metric selection. Douglas W. Hubbard, author of How to Measure Anything, explains how important information that’s considered “immeasurable” can be measured in a practical way.
Select appropriate graphs to facilitate quick and easy data interpretation.
Most effective dashboard graphs:
Graphs to avoid:
Rad Resource: Excel 2007 Dashboards & Reports for Dummies, by Michael Alexander, is a handy resource for creating dashboards in Excel.
Buyer beware: Many business intelligence software packages marketed for dashboard design are costly and impractical.
Simplicity should guide dashboard design. Aim to create an eloquent communication tool (think iPhone). Don’t ask potential users, “Do you like it?” to determine its effectiveness. Ask instead:
Regularly re-evaluate to see if your dashboard is still monitoring the correct metrics. If it’s not, a dashboard is no longer adding value; instead, it becomes a time sink and distracts you and your organization from what is critical for success.
I look forward to learning how you use data dashboards in your work!]]>
1) 10-10-10, a date in which the month, day and last two digits of the year are all the same occurs infrequently. The next 10-10-10 will come on October 10, 2110. While I would love to be on the planet to celebrate that, it is unlikely, so I’d better celebrate it now. The last 10-10-10 was October 10, 1910 and neither my parents nor I were born yet. Another missed opportunity to celebrate. Oh well.
2) October 10th happens to be my birthday. For others, like Vincent (who you can see in this video), who was born on 10-10 and is turning 10 years old, it is even more special to be alive on this particular day in history. Especially if you are a data geek, like me, who loves numbers!
3) National Metric Day is October 10th and begins a week of activities designed to educate folks, students primarily, about the metric system. I remember learning the metric system in my 8th grade science class. The metric scale, with millimeters on the far left and kilometers on the far right over the chalkboard, is still clear in my mind’s eye. It was so simple to learn the relationship of each unit to the others! That’s because the system is built on base 10, versus 12 inches per foot, 3 feet to a yard, etc. in the U.S. system of measurement. Thus, the slogan for National Metric Week 1980 (they celebrated it in May back then) was “The number 10 is the ‘nuts-n-bolts’ of the metric system.” Very clever.
When I heard that 10-10 was National Metric Day, what I thought of was a technical definition of metric. According to yourdictionary.com, metric means a standard for measuring or evaluating something or a basis for assessment. Measuring, evaluating and assessing are important aspects of the work I do as a data scientist and founder of data2insight.
In this age of information overload people and organizations are drowning in data and starved for wisdom. We need to go beyond collecting, cleaning, storing and reporting data. We need to do more exploring, analyzing, monitoring, predicting and story telling to support evidence-based decisions and actions. This means using data wisely and is critical to designing and developing sustainable solutions to our most complex and intractable problems. Not using – or misusing – data leads to people, organizations, and communities adrift in a sea of information and no better off than before the age of information.
The purpose of this blog is to feature examples of people and organizations using data wisely, as well as to share my thoughts and opinions on this subject. I (and others on occasion) will seek out pockets of creativity and greatness where people are using data to improve their programs and practices in order to make a difference in the world for the better. Examples may be found in any discipline. Because data crosses all disciplinary boundaries, we can find solutions for using data wisely in any and all areas of study and practice. We plan to post 6 times a year, approximately every 2 months.
The first example I have my eye on is the One Day on Earth project, an innovative use of a social networking platform to tell stories of life on earth from the perspective of thousands of people around the world. The data, in this case, are personal videos that are to be created on – you guessed it – 10-10-10. The project began a couple of years ago with the goal of creating a worldwide media event where participants would simultaneously film over a 24-hour period. The experience of seeing and hearing a group of musicians, from all around the world, who had never played together transform disharmony into harmony in a matter of minutes, inspired a similar vision for another universal form of communication—cinema. One Day on Earth’s vision is to guide a global community of people to create the first truly worldwide film.
One of the project’s founding principles is perspective. The website reads, “We are creating a time capsule for the whole world to better understand itself. We strive to find out who we are as human beings because it is beneficial to our sustainability as a species.” In this video One Day on Earth founder Kyle Ruddick explains that the more diverse perspectives shared via film, the more accurate our perspective will be of one day on earth. This statement led me to reflect on the use of qualitative data collected from interviews, focus groups, observations, recordings and images to create rich descriptions of people, programs, events, activities, institutions and societies.
In the information age, where we can quantify most anything, it is easy to make the mistake of thinking that qualitative data is inferior and quantitative data is superior. However, we must remember that qualitative and quantitative data complement each other, allow us to triangulate findings, and create a more rich, robust and accurate picture of the truth.
I am eager to contribute my video documenting my birthday party and my life on Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA on 10-10-10. I hope you will get out and video or photograph your 10-10-10 story as well. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the data will be used to tell the story of what it is to be human on this planet at this time in history. Stay tuned…
I would love to hear from you. Please share examples of data used wisely and your thoughts and ideas on what constitutes using data wisely in the coming weeks and months. I look forward to our conversations!
-Stephen Few, data visualization expert and principal of perceptual edge