Last month, I decided to try to create xcelsius dashboards to present part of my monthly reporting. Key motivation to do this was because I felt that the interactive visuals offered by xcelsius helps my audience understand the information better and allows me to present more angles of view with lesser preparation effort.
After a few dashboards, I was able to improve my design efficiency by following a six step approach in a systematic manner. This approach was developed thru my own trial and error, may not be the best, but it worked for me. I share it here, and if anyone has used different approachs, I would love to hear from you as well.
Step 1: What are we presenting?
We need to be clear the purpose of our dashboard. Decide on the topic to discuss, and how much to discuss. Create a title and define the information scope.
Step 2: Who are we presenting to?
Think about who will need our dashboard, and why they need that information. What do they want to take away with after reading our dashboard? What decisions do they need to make? We must satisfy their information gathering objective.
Step 3: What questions will our audience ask?
Write down all the questions that the audience will ask. Brainstorm them, or ask the audience directly. Then, prioritize the questions and check whether our information scope is sufficient. Adjust the information scope if required to ensure we address the most important and pressing questions.
Step 4: How to visualize the information and interact with them?
Using paper and pencils, design the tables, charts and messages that will help the audience “see” the answers to their questions. Think of how the audience will use and interact with the visuals, and how the visuals will interact with each other. Draw the layout design on paper, and add tools to improve the user interaction experience. Reuse visuals if possible, and think of how and when they should appear during the interaction.
Step 5: What data do we need and have?
Identify the type of data we need, the data that is available, and where they are from. Are the raw data sufficient, or do we need further processing? Bear in mind that xcelsius is only a presentation tool. Number crunching should be done separately with BI or other tools. We only want results that can be presented directly, or with the help of minimum and basic formulas. If data is really unavailable, modify the questions and visuals and inform the audience.
Step 6: Reaffirm the relevance of your dashboard.
Now that we have a draft layout of the dashboard, go thru the question list again to check that we have answered the questions we need and want to answer. Repeat steps 4 and 5 if required. Finally, review the dashboard to ensure that it is still relevant to our audiences’ information need and out purpose.
Completing these steps, we will now be ready to develop the dashboard. For continuous improvement, repeat the six step approach with the available dashboard.