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Effective Dashboards.


One of the most misunderstood terms in business today is "dashboard". When many people hear the phrase "dashboard report", they think of the dashboard of their car, or even the cockpit of an advanced fighter jet, with fuel gauges, speedometers, and other displays crammed into a tight space. These displays are effective in your car, because they tell you what's going on right now. They're effective in a jet, because the pilot has undergone many hours of training in order to interpret these gauges appropriately. These flashy but cluttered displays are horrible in a business report, because they are inefficient at presenting information, they don't show trends, they distract the viewer with colors and glitter, while presenting very little useful information.

A dashboard report is not a set of dial gauges that mimics the cockpit of a 747. A dashboard report is the combination of a large number of small, well-designed charts and tables, thoughtfully integrated to pack a great deal of information into a small area on screen or on a printed page.


Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge has spent a career learning and teaching what techniques effectively display data so that human eyes can readily perceive it as information and human minds readily analyze it as knowledge. The books listed below are very good references for understanding perception and cognition in terms of informational display.

Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten

Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data

Stephen Few is unique in his approaches that integrate physiological and psychological theories of perception and cognition into practical techniques for effective display of information.


Pointy Haired Dilbert   

Excel MVP Chandoo of Pointy Haired Dilbert has written a series of posts about dashboarding techniques for Excel. He has a comprehensive list of these posts at Excel Dashboards.


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