What makes a KPI Dashboard tick

Stuart Kinsey Published: 

Each day we are privileged to interact with many types of KPI Dashboards, from the quirky, small yet simple dashboard for personal performance, to the real heavyweight financial reporting goliaths.

Yet there is something about a select number of these dashboards that make them stand out. The reality is that it’s not the amount of charts, fancy widgets or even the amount of data the can be packed into these dashboard that sets some of them apart - it’s something else.

Beautiful dashboards catch the eye, but not necessarily for their aesthetic qualities – although this does help. There is a broader range of essentials that work together as part of a well-oiled machine to create a dashboard that is not just functional but stunning.

Graph Types

Graph, chart, widget or view selection is fundamental to a streamlined dashboard. However with over 100 recognized chart and graph types available, not including the near endless derivatives it’s no wonder that some dashboards with great data structure fall down at the first hurdle. This is not to say that using some of the more exotic chart types is a dashboard crime, it’s far more important that the marriage of the data to the graph in the most understandable way that makes dashboard graphs spectacular.


A fixed perspective of the data can provide a very narrow view of performance, even more frustrating can be the feeling of data decapitation – the inability to investigate or drill into the data to see how that normally consistent sales revenue graph has gone berserk.

Good dashboard design has already thought this through; the ability to simply analyse the KPI data begins with the data collection, a well-defined dashboard understands that both displaying the surface data and the subsequent data are equally as important.


I suppose it is the perception that a dashboards sole purpose is to display the surface layer of data that encourages the underutilised yet powerful feature of grouping. It can be refreshing when grouping is used to enhance understanding of how the chart data has been formed, for example a dashboard chart displaying unique visitors is extremely basic and a little misleading - in most cases it’s the countries or target markets those visitors are coming from that’s important. A chart showing the top 5 destination with the total unique visitors, would offer a greater insight of visitor segmentation within the wider context of visitors without being over complicated.

Exporting your dashboard

The flexibility to instantly replicate the dashboard in a number of ways ensures that it retains its magnificence. It’s because good dashboards understand they need context, they are a great tool but only part of a structure or process so they need flexibility to extend their message. Dashboards that can communicate their message through other mediums such as PDFs or Excel enjoy an elevated status within an organisation.

Clear Dashboard Communication

Dashboard clarity has to be one of the most important elements of a truly stunning dashboard, the whole purpose to exist lies in its ability to communicate the reality - be that good bad or indifferent. Removing confusion and frustration from the flow of data can be achieved by focusing on a clear objective for each graph or chart type. For example a sales revenue chart could be defined as ‘Providing an accurate revenue value of all of our sales this month by outlet’. Dashboards with clear chart objectives create an element of trust when making business decisions based on the data.


Why present four graphs when one will suffice. Not only do great dashboards display a simplistic view of the data they display it in the most concise way. This concise approach to dashboard management removes frustration and rewards the audience with graceful display of their important KPIs.


Responsive KPI dashboards are quick - they acquire the data and display even large amounts of data effortlessly. They feedback to the user when something has happened and display a smooth and precise level of control over functions and features.

Sharing the knowledge

Sharing the knowledge can been extremely beneficial to an organisation. A dashboard that can be effortlessly shared with groups; teams and even individual will provide the organisation with real results from the data than a dashboard that simply exists.

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