Mobile phones and tablets are becoming increasingly important for dashboard design, fulfilling the purpose of conveniently accessing information while traveling. In today’s blog, I use the excuse of needing to complete my Tableau Resume to revisit this topic and share with you the process of creating great Mobile/Tablet Dashboards.
Step 1: Understand the Purpose of the Dashboard
I feel as if this is a recurring theme in my blogs, but in order for a dashboard to be successful, the end-user must use and derive value from it, and the only way that can be achieved is by understanding the purpose.
In a perfect world, everybody will have access to a laptop at all times of the day, but unfortunately, this is neither a best practice nor a realistic goal. Mobile dashboards flourish under these conditions:
- It is useful as a quick progress check
- It is useful to gain a brief snapshot of the current conditions
- It is useful to access information on the go
- It is useful to solely communicate “the numbers”, i.e. it will never be a data exploration dashboard
- It is useful when simple, vertically inclined charts answer the business problem
Step 2: Know your Device
Tableau offers a whole range of optimizations for differing mobile and tablet screen sizes. It goes without saying but knowing the dimensions you have to use will help tremendously with the layout of the dashboard, but there is another option.
Instead of fixing your aspect to fit a certain size, Tableau offers a range and automatic sizing, which allows the developer to customize how the dashboard looks for differing screen sizes. My suggestion is automatic is not the best option as you cannot control the aspect of what is seen, but a range is a good approach and can be tested in tableau for the variety of screen sizes.
Step 3: Keep the User Experience in Mind
Tableau offers a wide range of customization with dashboards, including actions, tooltips, and motion, but ultimately none of these “wow” features will be appropriate for a smaller screen and a finger. Simple design with a low amount of clutter will help the user navigate around the dashboard to get the insights that are required. Especially make sure that all charts are fitted to the screen without any scroll bars, as these are not able to be read quickly or make the navigation mobile friendly.
A further important consideration is for the users needing quick answers, you do not want your dashboard to take a long time to load, especially given that 3G/4G/5G will be how it will be loaded, so keep the datasets efficient, but conducting practices like converting calculated fields into the database itself.
A quick trick I have enjoyed putting on dashboards recently is the show/hide button using the floating functionality, and while this does require a click, I could see good applications for this with reducing the amount of clutter on the screen. A long list of filters is not a good practice for mobile dashboards.
Step 4: Make The Dashboard
It may sound crazy but you make mobile phone dashboards the same as desktop dashboards, the only difference being the layout and design. You may be inclined to have more big ass numbers and compact graphs such as sparklines or bullet charts, but the main focus is to deliver insights for busy people on the go, or for people who need to quickly check on a dashboard.
COOL TRICK: Creating Mobile Charts and Dashboard Charts
Nicholas showed DSAU5 a while back where using the arrow keys in tableau you can essentially make a chart disappear from the screen. This trick will be important where you would want 2 different charts showing the same information, but 1 optimized for desktop and the other optimized for smaller devices. Both of these sheets will need to be present on the original dashboard, but you can sheet swap. This can also be done under the layout tab, set the position x and y out of view, and then use the arrow keys to further drag it off-screen.