Several years ago, I saw an exhibition of surrealist paintings in Paris including works by Salvador Dali and Joan Miro. I found the Dali paintings visually stunning as well as fascinatingly compelling whereas I had a hard time understanding the Miro ones. Others, who were with me, expressed the complete opposite opinion and loved the Miro work but had little time for the Dali pieces.
We all have different likes and dislikes to visual images whether they are paintings, cars or even business intelligence dashboards. I can personally testify to the dashboards since our company has developed over 400 of them in the last four years and they come in all shapes, sizes and visual tastes. I remember one particular dashboard that we developed for a transportation company that I thought was very visually stunning and provided multiple levels of drill down and some very powerful “What if?” scenarios. While the manager at the company also liked it a lot, his director felt it was not stunning enough and wanted different colors and more 3-D components. They both felt the dashboard met their functional needs but for the look it really just boiled down to a matter of personal taste.
The beauty of a dashboard tool like Xcelsius is that it allows you to design and cater to all these different tastes. You have a wealth of components, colors, themes and templates available and, if this is still not enough, you can develop your own.
While some people prefer simple dashboards with clear sharp components, others may prefer a more complex and richer look. If you do not like pie charts and certain colors, you do not have to use them.
Dashboard design is an art but the key to designing an effective, as well as a visually pleasing, dashboard is not to read books about the subject and it is also not to hire a graphic artist. The key is to sit down with the people who are going to be using the dashboard and to understand what they want to see and how they want to view and interact with it. While this may sound too simplistic, it is not. Of course, there can be room for visual enhancement and “cool” features but only if they serve a purpose.
There are many dashboard products on the market today that provide limited views and components so that you often have to force fit your requirements into what is available within the product. Xcelsius, on the other hand, allows you to design and create dashboards in an almost infinite number of ways and you are only limited by your imagination (or your user’s requirements). As to how they look, it is doubtful you will ever please everyone but remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.