By Silvia Cardoso Pereira

It’s hardly news that data analysis has become something valuable and strategic for any business. The idea that “Data is the new oil”, defended in an article published by The Economist in 2017, is already common jargon.

Companies are increasingly investing more time and resources enabling their teams to make truly data-driven decisions. Tools like Qlik Sense support this mission, providing a platform that makes it easy to structure, access, and analyze this precious information. Therefore, it’s become possible to create dashboards that serve as the visual interface between “raw” data and the end-user (mainly analysts, managers, and executives), who in turn will consume this information.

As much as technology has automated many processes and allowed us to process a previously unthinkable amount of information, humans need to understand and interpret this data in order for it to have meaning and value. Therefore for a key stakeholder to grasp this data, a clear communication process is necessary, with clear visual aids that make information digestible. 

At this point we have a crucial (and often neglected) point when attempting to successfully implement a data-driven business culture. It’s simply not enough to provide reliable data; it is also necessary to be strategic in the way we present this data. Oftentimes effort and valuable resources will be wasted if those who need to make use of an analytics dashboard cannot get the relevant information they need from it for their daily activities and striking key decisions.

The image above shows a clear example where a dashboard offers a series of data about HR and Sales. This example shows a generic template that is typically used across different organisations in the real world, so let’s use it to illustrate our idea.

Take a detailed look at the image and try to imagine yourself in the position of having to draw insights from that dashboard: if you were responsible for tracking these indicators, how would you feel if that were your analysis interface? Would you find it to be quick and easy to identify points that need your attention? Would you be able to contextualize and deep-dive into information you require to solve a specific problem? 

If you got confused and tired just by looking at it for a few seconds, try to imagine having to work with a similar dashboard on a daily basis! It’s now clear the panel suffers from basic design issues. To solve this impasse, the same data can and should be visually presented with a clearer upfront design process that ultimately demands less cognitive effort from the user and enables objective reading. 

Adopting a “design-first” approach when commissioning a dashboard is as important as having a good analytics tool in itself. And the sooner you invest in a design-first approach, the better it will be for your bottom line. Apart from increasing user retention and attention spans, you will be increasing effective data use by those stakeholders making use of the dashboard for metric evaluation and key decision making. 

Also, when you start with a “design-thinking” mindset, you will shorten and optimize next steps during the project lifecycle, reducing efforts and costs. Fixing bugs after development, for instance, can be up to 4 times more expensive than doing it at the design stage. Modifying and testing possibilities are faster and less demanding during the design phase. In addition, a difficult-to-use dashboard may require internal staff training and result in low user engagement.

The following example presents a dashboard developed by Cluster for BMG Bank. The approach here was no different than what we’ve been proposing our clients on all our work throughout the years: a dashboard born from a “design-first” methodology, in which design is kept as the heart and soul of the entire project. BMG Bank wanted to use this dashboard mainly on mobile devices and the content was quite heavy, so we worked to understand what problem the dashboard needed to solve first; this entailed information architecture structures, and a design that balanced the brand’s personality with clarity information delivery on the screen. It was thus possible to to reach the following functional and attractive result:

If you are still unsure whether it’s worth investing in dashboard design, here are three extra good reasons for you to think why the effort pays off:

1. A design-first approach helps define project requirements, ensuring they are clear, consistent, and shared by all stakeholders;

2. It reduces efforts in the data extraction and modeling phase. Once you define and approve what needs to be shown on the dashboard during the early design phase, those responsible for making the data available will be able to focus only on what matters most: data extraction and modeling, but without extra noise;

3. Your organization will benefit from an easier to use and understand data analytics interface, with information that actually matters and adds value to those interacting with your dashboard. Our design team has the expertise to recommend whether the best way to display a certain data-set is in the form of a line-graph, KPI, or in tabular form, for example.

Now… are you ready to take the first step into incorporating “design-thinking” into your Qlik Sense panels? Get in touch. Let’s talk. Your team’s productivity will show for it.