1) Start by determining exactly what questions you want to answer
This might sound like an obvious point, but you’d be surprised how many companies capture mountains of data without first thinking about how it can be used to benefit them. You might find out that 75% of your visitors are viewing your site on a mobile device, but how is that relevant to your business?
Would it not be better to know how many of those mobile users completed a purchase, and how that figure compares to those who used your desktop site? Were your mobile users satisfied with your mobile site or did they encounter difficulties when using it? Answers to these questions can assist in maximising sales and customer loyalty, which is why our experienced analytics team work with our clients to cut through the noise and identify the vital questions that will help their businesses grow.
2) Make good use of all of the data you collect
So you’re capturing daily sales figures or visitor numbers to your site. Great! What do those numbers mean? Is ten thousand visitors today a good number and if so, how can you tell? To design a truly useful dashboard it’s necessary to compare current data with aged data, whether that’s from last week, last year or even the last ten years.
This comparative data can assist in making important business decisions, for example there might be no need to change your strategy after a slump in sales if your data can show an overall upward trend, or that customers are less likely to buy in May after splashing out over Easter.
Additionally, it’s vital to combine all of the data you capture. You might be sending data to Google Analytics, Adobe SiteCatalyst and Mixpanel, but what good is that if you’re looking at them all separately? A quality dashboard will blend all of your data, picking and choosing the key metrics from each data-set to give you a complete picture of how your business is performing and how you can improve to meet your targets. At Yard we have experience with all manner of data warehouse APIs from Google Adwords to Adobe Sitecatalyst, and can quickly get all the data we need to build a dashboard tailored to answer the big questions that any business has.
3) Don’t forget the importance of format
Once you’ve identified what questions you’re trying to answer and gathered the information you need to do it, the next step is displaying your data in a way that’s easy to understand. This is important because it allows you to make quick, well-informed decisions on the back of near real-time data.
Even if snap decisions aren’t necessary for your business, displaying data that is unclear is as bad as displaying no data at all. There is no value in passing reams and reams of csv files to your dashboard – the sheer space needed to display them to the user makes them impractical. Instead, graphs and charts are an excellent way to display everything you need to know in a clear and concise manner, and can show an incredible amount of data both in the foreground and background without becoming too cluttered.
That being said, it’s also important to choose the correct graph for the information you are trying to display. Yes, the bubble scatter graph with the colours and multiple track-lines is very pretty, but if you only need to see your visitor numbers month-on-month is it really necessary? A complex graph not only takes up space on the page, but can be time-consuming and even misleading for the user. At Yard we know all the tricks to show off our data in the cleanest and simplest way.
4) Always keep the end user in mind
This might be a bit of a reiteration of the first and third points, but we think it’s important enough that it bears repeating. Always remember that the CXOs of a company will be looking for a higher-level overview of the business than a team leader, and salespeople might be looking for a different view entirely.
Obviously the holy grail is to make a dashboard that filters information depending on the user, but even so, when filtering it is still useful to remember who that user will be. Keeping the dashboard clean and answering the questions that the user would be asking (and only providing more data where it has a purpose) is imperative when it comes to making your dashboard as useful as possible. Our analysts and developers work together to make sure our dashboards strike the right note between depth of information and ease of use.
5) Make sure the data is available anywhere at anytime
An internal dashboard certainly has value to the directors of a business, but wouldn’t it also be helpful if your salespeople had access to the data they needed to better negotiate new deals in the field? With the rising number of mobile devices and tablets and their increased utility as laptop replacements there really is no excuse not to make a responsive dashboard that can be viewed from anywhere, via a simple web app rather than a cumbersome desktop program.
Whether it’s showing off sales figures at an investment pitch or reviewing the latest customer conversion rates over a coffee, your business becomes more dynamic on the move. At Yard we use the latest and greatest responsive web development libraries to make sure our sites look good wherever you are.