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Three Key Tips for Building Mobile Dashboards

You walk into your office in the morning. You’ve double-checked your inbox and meeting schedule on your phone on your way in. You whip out your tablet and quickly go through the morning reports. Your everyday necessities are quickly becoming all available at the touch of your mobile devices. But what about your dashboards? Are they being deployed on mobile devices as well? Or are they still weighed down by the need for a desktop or laptop?

The trendy quote going around is that: “The world is going mobile”, and it’s true, we are becoming a society that is embracing mobility. So why shouldn’t your dashboards embrace it as well?

Of course, it’s not as simple snapping a finger and having a mobile dashboard. At the end of the day, it has to make sense for you and your business. There are security concerns, usability questions, compatibility, and etc. that need to be addressed beforehand. And even when you decide to make your dashboards mobile, are your dashboards optimally designed to be used on mobile devices?

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on mobile dashboards of many varieties. Whether you’re using SAP Dashboards/Xcelsius, another dashboard tool, or building your own custom developed HTML5 dashboard, I wanted to share with you some of the most important key points that I think about constantly when designing a mobile compatible dashboard.

Make Your Interaction Points Mobile-Friendly

We’ve probably all heard or used the term “fat fingers” at least once in our lives. And regardless of the actual size of your finger, making precise selections on mobile screens with your finger is not simple. It’s a simple fact that our fingers cannot compete with the pinpoint accuracy of using a computer mouse.

Your dashboard users need large, obvious interaction points that they can usually use. No one enjoys tapping furiously around one spot to finally hit the pixel-perfect selection point.

Three Key Tips for Building Mobile Dashboards 1

Let’s look at this screenshot as an example. Here, we have a few push buttons, and a line chart that allows for data insertion when selecting a point. This is perfectly acceptable if the dashboard is being accessed on a computer with a mouse pointer. But would this be easily usable on a touch screen? Can the user consistently hit the buttons and chart points with a single tap? In my opinion, probably not; so let’s give it a slight makeover:

Three Key Tips for Building Mobile Dashboards 2

First, we made a buttons thicker, to give the user an easy surface area to hit with their finger. We also replaced the line chart with a bar chart (with increased marker width), to also increase the point of interaction.

There are many different solutions we could provide for this one example, but the point remains the same: make interacting with your dashboard easy, understandable, and straightforward for the user.

Know Your Target Devices and Screen Sizes

What mobile devices will your dashboard users be accessing the dashboard with? Do they have Andoids or iOS? Tablets or Phones? Maybe a mixture of all of the above? What models are being used for each?

It’s crucial to know this, because each different device has its own screen resolution. And it’s important to make sure that your dashboard will accommodate that screen resolution. If you made a dashboard 1024×768, then deployed it to phones, your users will probably not be too thrilled using it. That’s an extreme example, but you want to make sure that:

  1. All of your components are sized correctly for that screen size
  2. No scrollbar appears on the dashboard when opening it up on the mobile devices

Both of these potential issues detract from the user experience, causing annoyance and frustration for the user trying to view the dashboard.

Test the Impact Your Data Size Will Have on Mobile Devices

This is an extremely key item, and one that I see constantly.

It’s pure fact that tablets and phones are not nearly as powerful as computers. Unfortunately, this means that there is potential that running too much data through your dashboard on mobile devices can bring it to its knees, and in worse cases, render it unusable. I’ve personally experienced dashboards turn into mammoth beasts that take minutes to open up, just from a slight increase in data size. Something like that is unacceptable for users to have to put up with, especially if they need the data promptly. And at that point, you’re losing a lot of the benefit of having your dashboard mobile accessible.

So what is the recommended amount of data for a dashboard on mobile devices? The simple answer is: it depends. There are numerous factors that come into play when determining this, and it’s impossible to give a blanket answer for this. How many rows and columns is your data set? What device is your dashboard on? What format is your dashboard deployed in? How are your users accessing the dashboard? Is the dashboard connected? How many components are in your dashboard?

That’s why it’s important to do testing, do more testing, and then do even more testing. Of course, you can always consult experienced resources for their information as well. But the point is, you want to be aware of possible data limitations on your mobile dashboards, and sort out any potential obstacles before developing your dashboard.

In conclusion, these are 3 things that you should keep in mind when planning on developing a mobile dashboard, whether it be a brand new dashboard or converting an older one. And thinking about these types of things now, instead of later, will make your development life a lot easier.

About Taylor Packwood

A graduate of Arizona State University with a degree in Computer Information Systems, Taylor Packwood began working at InfoSol in fall of 2012. Using a combination of his creativitiy and technical skills, he has developed a skill and passion in developing dashboards, choosing to specialize specifically in both SAP Dashboards as well as IB Apps HTML5 Dashboards.

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