8 Tips For Building a KPI Dashboard

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 by Johnathan Briggs
1.    Remember that you want to report “key” indicators not “every” indictor. Don’t dilute the message with too much information on one KPI Dashboard.

2.    Forget animations and glossy graphics they get in the way of your message. Think about visuals that communicate your data clearly
small dashboard with multiple graphs

3.    Do not try to cram too much on one chart / graph. This is a common mistake that make interpretation of the data harder. Create many charts with less data on them rather than one charts that is cluttered
multiple lines in a single cluttered chart

4.    Gauges look great but offer little. A gauge tells you very clearly the “current position” of a specific KPI but to make good decisions you really need to know the trend and direction of travel.  In the same space a bar chart will tell your reader more and be better at communicating your message.

5.    Create “overview dashboards”. Remove some of the detail and duplicate some of your detailed content so that reader can see the big picture quickly, but review the detail if they wish.

6.    Pie charts get used a lot to show the breakdown of different categories. But make sure that you have a clear title showing the date range of this pie chart as it’s critical to put the data into context, for example, "Sales by Product This Year to Date"
pie chart showing sales by product with 3 products included

7.    Don’t get too clever with your charts. Yes there are 100’s of chart styles but there are some that are just better. Consider using large blocks of colour for your main KPI, for example a column chart and a less strong styles (say line charts) for targets, this way your message is communicated clearly but does not become cluttered.

8.    Most charts you do will have a time axis. Try to decide if the chart is required to show trends or if it is required have specific values read from it and format your chart accordingly.
column chart with targets and trend easily spotted

I hope you found these 8 tips useful. You can find more in-depth information on creating management dashboards in our Dashboard Best Practice Guide