A week and a half ago we finished dashboard week. A week of ultra high intensity dashboard creation, with a dashboard and blog to be created each day. While it was very challenging, and resulted in more than a few of late nights, it was a fantastic way to fine tune the art of dashboard-making. Here are some key things I learnt about telling a story.

Creating a Story

The Story is usually the most important aspect of a dashboard. You can have a technically brilliant dashboard, or it can be designed beautifully, and you’ll score points for both. But in general, the goal of a dashboard is to teach us something new. You need to have that content and story to fully deliver.

Having a good story can be thought of in two ways.

  1. Coming up with a dashboard angle
  2. What are the points of interest that your dashboard brings to light?

Dashboard Angle

This is the general question/s your dashboard is aiming to answer. If you’re trying to make a dashboard for a client this may be an easier thing to do because you would typically have a set of requirements, and a goal from whoever wants the dashboard. However, if you don’t have a set of specific requirements, this step becomes much more vital to a successful result. This would be particularly the case for personal projects and in my case, dashboard week.

Some tips for deciding on a dashboard concept:

  • What do you find interesting about the data? Ask yourself what do you want to know? What you find interesting is likely to be interesting to someone else, and that curiosity in the project will shine through and result in a higher quality dashboard.
  • What are some potential uses of the data? – What profession would benefit from it?
  • How can you explore these questions in an engaging way? You can use your imagination and have fun with it. For example, during my dashboard week I had a concept where I compared Japanese and Scottish Whisky’s as if it was a sporting contest.

Interesting Points in the Data

Typically, you’re finding these points as your exploring the data in charts during the making of the dashboard or when you’re finished. These points can answer your original question and you can then come up with follow up questions that you’ll want to answer which will alter your original design. For example: For my Whisky dashboard I found that the products with the highest auction bids for Scottish Whisky’s mostly came from 1 distiller. So, the follow up was: ‘What if we remove that distiller from the chart?’ And I made a set to do that.

By answering these follow up questions you’re making your story deeper, and more valuable. However, you’ll also need to consider your time management.  But that’s a topic for another day.

Frank Salmon
Author: Frank Salmon