So many choices at the Madison Square Eats food rally this weekend. If only I had a dashboard…
According to Merriam-Webster, a dashboard was “a screen on the front of a usually horse-drawn vehicle to intercept water, mud, or snow.”
They were meant to protect the driver. Do modern dashboards protect us from the onslaught of data debris coming from different directions?
How did such a simple idea become so complex? As visualization practitioners, we must nurture the industry through its infancy and provide good parenting skills, which includes some “tough love.”
Our most important role is to communicate openly and clearly — and today’s dashboards can be confusing and indecipherable. Whether created with PowerPoint or new leaders such as QlikView and Tableau, it’s way too easy to squeeze a lot of visuals on one page. When you see this, take responsibility (even if this is not your job) to help improve the organization’s approach to dashboarding.
This behavior is based on the static nature of PowerPoint et al. Providing as much information as possible on a page reduced readers flipping through pages. Well, new visualization software enables interaction among visuals, and in particular, through a browser. So, now we can “spread” the story over multiple pages and it’s much easier to move through the data.
While this will make it easier for readers to visually ingest information, the message is not necessarily communicated more clearly. You also have the responsibility to keep everyone out of harms way from exploding data and educate on developing decision-driven visuals.