Dashboard design is a popular topic amongst both developers and end users.  I’ve had many recent conversations (both internal and external) focused on the desire to visualize data into a dashboard form.  Designing dashboards is not a simple process, and it's important to keep several details in mind when designing any user interface.

1. Identify the KPI: What's the Most Important Metric?


The first and most crucial idea is to identify the most important metric to your dashboard.  This is sometimes referred to as a KPI (key performance indicator), and it should be the focal point of your design.  If you’re designing a sales application, this might be a quarterly sales figure or percentage to goal; if you're tracking tracking web traffic, it's the number of unique visitors to your website.  This should be a combination of knowing your own data, the purpose of your application, and the desires of your users.
Present your KPI simply. Don't muddle the design with extraneous detail.

2. Keep the UI Simple


Good UIs shouldn’t be overly complicated. Users should be able to navigate through them quickly and easily.  This idea is really a companion to tip #1: if you're keeping the focus on your most important metric, both access and presentation of that information should be straightforward.  Further, it's important to keep features and data organized.  A clean design with fewer features will be much easier to navigate than a cluttered but feature-rich design.  Select the most meaningful features, and design around that core.

3. Design for Your User's Devices: Phone, Tablet, or Desktop?


Determine what platform your user base is most likely to use.  If your users will be viewing your dashboard on their iPads rather than a Windows Desktop, then you'll need to scale your design smaller, and ensure it's got the animations and touchability that's expected.  Development via Xamarin.Forms and Xuni can be especially powerful, since it opens up design for multiple mobile platforms (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone).  Xuni and Xamarin.Forms allows you to target multiple platforms at once, and takes care of many of these design concerns for you, but it's still important to make sure that the interface elements are laid out and sized for the device that your users are most likely to use.

4. Identify What Your Users Care About


Never, never forget about your user. You might have some idea of which metrics may be important, but you could miss the mark in determining which details should be emphasized. Ask your audience via poll or survey what data they’re most interested in; they'll tell you!  And don't forget that users want to interact with data: build in filtering, sorting, and categorizing so they can customize what they need.

So, you really love 6-point font on your phone... also you'd like a hat?

Identify the Problem, and Provide the Best Solution to It


Data visualization tools provide a rich toolbox for designing your application, but dashboard design is all about identifying the problem you need to solve and using the right tools to provide the solution.  Knowing your data and your customers is key to presenting your information clearly and succinctly in dashboard form.  Xuni expands your reach to new platforms, and provides a strong framework with which you can achieve your design goals.

The zen of Dashboard

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