Planning your dashboard can provide clarify, direction and most importantly save time.

When working on a project that requires a dashboard, allocate some of your time to planning. It doesn’t have to be much, but any time will help you out over the project lifetime. In this blog, I will be highlighting some of the benefits planning can have on your final dashboard as well as where in your overall project timeline planning fits in.

To truly understand the benefits of planning a dashboard we first need to look at what could happen if we don’t plan. Some of the potential problems that we can face include:

  • Spending too much time exploring different ideas or functionality,
  • Losing track of what you are working on,
  • Creating a dashboard with multiple elements that don’t communicate a cohesive story, or
  • Not being able to receive feedback until the dashboard has been created.

While these potential problems aren’t going to stop you from creating a dashboard, they could take more time than anticipated. In projects where time is a constraint, you might not be able to deliver your best work.


Where does planning a dashboard fit into your project timeline?

Before jumping into the benefits, it’s worth understanding where in your overall project timeline planning your dashboard should come in. And while there is no written rule, generally you would start to look at planning your dashboard once you have cleaned your data and have a basic understanding of what your data entails. Knowing the objective or desired outcome will also help.

One alternative to the above would be when you do not have access to the cleaned data yet. For example, when working in a team the roles may be split up and your role might be to only create the dashboard – opposed to cleaning the data. We’ll explore this further in the benefits of planning.


What are the benefits of planning a dashboard?

Overall, planning your dashboard can save you time, provide clarity and direction when it comes time to developing your dashboard. Looking at the benefits of planning your dashboard closer, it can be down into six points:

     1 – Resource allocation

Your time is a resource that needs to be accounted for in any business project. In planning your dashboard, you can understand how much time and energy you need to allocate to deliver it.

     2 – Overall Direction

Having a clear goal can be motivating and help keep you on track. Throughout the project and when developing the dashboard, you can refer to your plan. When working in a team the plan can help communicate what you are working on and your next steps.

     3 – Cohesive Dashboard

Dashboards consist of multiple elements to communicate a key message and/or story. Planning your dashboard allows you to think about the relationship of each element that you want to display, how they connect and the overall layout. When planning, play around with different elements and their positioning, thinking about what you want the audience to focus on.

     4 – Clear Functionality

Dashboard functionality is what brings our dashboards together and allows the audience to interact with the data. Thinking clearly and identifying the functionality you want to include will give you a clear picture of what you need to include to make that functionality work. And if you want to include extra functionality then you’ll have a good base to work from.

     5 – Feedback

Sharing your plan with your team or client can save time and ensure that you understand the brief/objective. This is also a great opportunity to receive feedback to improve your design or include additional functionality. As you can imagine this could save you a lot of time and frustration compared to if you had to remake your dashboard from the beginning.

     6 – Clarify when cleaning data

Revisiting the alternative to planning to your dashboard above, working in teams with assigned roles could mean that you don’t receive the cleaned data until much later in the project cycle. In this instance, creating a draft dashboard with the raw data in mind can help the team members clean the data. Looking at the draft dashboard, the data clean team members can view it to get an idea of what information you are looking for them to provide. Further, this can allow the data cleaning team to:

  • identify additional data they might need to enhance the data,
  • focus on cleaning the data you need to create the dashboard,
  • provide dummy data with the fields required; allowing you to work on the dashboard functionality, or
  • highlight any constraints from the data.


To conclude, planning your dashboard can benefit you by saving time, providing clarity, and giving you clear direction when it comes to creating your dashboard. Working on your next project, be sure to allocate some time to plan your dashboard and find out how beneficial it can be. Even if you are constricted by time, a simple dashboard can make all the difference.

In my next blog, I will be going through one of many tools that can be used to plan your dashboard.


Scott Johnston
Author: Scott Johnston