Before we go and review the 2008 Excel Dashboard Competition Winners I have to make you familiar with the Dashboard Squint Test.
Software usability experts and web designer use a quite effective way to assess the organization of a web page or a user interface, the so called Squint Test. You squint your eyes and make an assessment on the overall layout, of elements that stand out, the visual balance and other characteristics of an effective user interface.
This test can be easily extended and applied to dashboards. Squint your eyes and assess the overall layout.
A) Which dashboard elements draw the most Attention? What color pops up?
In a well designed dashboard, no element should stand out if everything is normal. Most dashboard elements should use de-saturated colors, normal fonts, light borders, visual elements that do not stand out. Pure bright colors should be reserved for small highlight areas that draw the users’ attention. A small bright, red icon can indicate that our production costs are above defined threshold that requires the manager to take action.
B) Do the dashboard elements Balance? Does the dashboard have a clear organization?
Do the dashboard elements balance? Each dashboard elements has a visual weight and our goal is to get a visually well balanced dashboard. Large, bold fonts, full saturated colors have a higher visual weight, than normal fonts, and de-saturated colors. White space has no or negative visual weight. Heavy Grids have a lot visual weight can have some other unpleasant effects.
C) Do the dashboard elements Contrast, group, align, does you visual grid work?
Do my dashboard elements contrast well against the background? Do they group well, obeying the Gestalt Laws of Proximity, Similarity, Continuity and Closure? Do the tables and charts align well in a visual grid?
So, does your dashboard pass the Dashboard Squint Test?