Building an Effective Dashboard: Mastt's 10 Essential Tips

Doug Vincent
Doug Vincent
January 19, 2024

In today's fast-paced world of capital project management, the ability to gather information quickly and efficiently is crucial to on-time and on-budget completion A well-designed dashboard can be a game-changer, providing a clear, concise view of what's going on.  

In this blog, we provide 10 Essential Tips that will help you build the best capital project or program dashboard.

1. Identify the Dashboard's Purpose

Understanding who will use the dashboard and what it aims to achieve is crucial. Start by addressing the key questions your audience seeks answers to. This step ensures your dashboard is tailored to its intended users and their decision-making needs.

2. Focus on the Most Important Information

Less is more! Resist the urge to overload your dashboard. Balance detail and simplicity by considering what your audience really needs to know and what can be left out. If you don’t know, ask the recipient “What are the key questions this dashboard for answer for you when you look at it?” and you’ll have your answer!  

3. Reduce Clutter and Maximize Screen Real Estate

A clean, well-organized dashboard enhances user experience. Use visual separation between elements, maintain a high data-to-ink ratio, eliminating anything that doesn't communicate valuable information. Embrace empty space; it's not just okay, it's often beneficial.

4. Consider the Reading Layout

People naturally start looking at the top left of a screen, so place your most critical information there. A good dashboard will often provide an “Anchor” top left such as the Project’s hero image. Structure your dashboard so that it aligns with natural reading patterns, so assume the eye goes to the right from the Anchor.

5. Bottom Line Upfront: Use Summary Tiles

Present key data points upfront using summary tiles in a call out. Simplify complex information into bite-sized, easily digestible numbers rounded appropriately so you can accelerate comprehension.

6. Group Related Metrics

Organize related metrics in a coherent manner. For example, group all cash flow-related data together, making it easier for users to find and interpret the information. This might mean you have a cash flow chart, with a cash flow table underneath, followed by cash flow written commentary – all close together!

7. Select the Right Visualization

Choose visualization types (like bars, donuts, etc.) that best represent your data. Use consistent colors to indicate similar types of data or status. For example, if you use green to show  'paid/actuals’ on one chart, use the same green elsewhere for paid/actual data.

8. Provide Context

Adding context to your data is crucial for understanding. Use elements like info buttons to offer additional details like 'last updated' timestamps, big number tiles to show the headline count or statistics, and if the data is up or down from the last report, provide a visual indicator.

9. Leverage Tooltips and Drilldowns

If you’re able to use a digital interactive dashboard, enhance the dashboard’s by moving detailed information to tooltips and drilldowns. These elements provide additional layers of information, making the dashboard not just informative but interactive.

10. Be Flexible and Evolve

Remember, it's okay to break the rules and adapt based on feedback. Continuously evolve your dashboard to better suit the changing needs and preferences of your recipients! Proactively ask “How can this dashboard be improved?”

Examples

Mastt's approach to dashboard design focuses on clarity, efficiency, and user-friendliness. By following these tips, you can create dashboards that not only look great but also provide meaningful insights, helping you to make informed decisions in your capital projects. Check out these examples we made to help guide!

Portfolio Dashboard

Program Dashboard

Board Dashboard

Project Status Dashboard

See how Capital Projects & Programs complete earlier and under budget