Creating a compelling and valuable dashboard for an application is the single hardest task in system design. A dashboard is the culmination and synthesis of every single design decision in the entire application. No pressure right?
The dashboard should always be designed last because it usually touches on every single aspect inside the company's problem space. Think about it like a kitchen drawer. One of the most used and valuable is the old "junk drawer." It is highly used but contains uncategorized items from lots of other drawers in your kitchen.
Especially at an early stage, you need to capture valuable user activity on individual pages first, before taking the next step and creating a higher fidelity, more condensed, more relevant interaction inside a single dashboard screen. Lots of companies really want some sexy control center that they can point to, because who doesn't want something nice to look at?
Take a step back. Create individually valuable pages inside your application before trying to optimize tasks with a dashboard. Sometimes if you wait long enough, you will discover you do not even need a dashboard.
Remember the content first. If people start drawing charts, graphs, and feed diagrams without actual real content inside them, that is a smell. Force those who want a dashboard to create the content and notifications before a single pixel is pushed on the dashboard design.
The dashboard should be a destination, not a hallway.
Oct 9, 2019
By thinking critically about the design that exists around us - evaluating what works, what doesn’t and why - we can apply new perspectives and rigor to our work designing applications and systems and communicate more effectively through design.
Our observations range from big corporate rebrands to local business street fliers. With each, we’ve taken the time to break down the designs and offer our point of view via a ranking system modeled after the Robert Parker wine rating system.
Unsatisfactory: Does not achieve design or communication goals.
Satisfactory: Just enough, sufficient, fine or “sure.”
Good: It’s good.
Very Good: Better than most but not exceptional.
Exceptional: Unusually good, rare, outstanding.
We love looking at new things, so if you want us to evaluate something you have seen or made, feel free to get in touch at email@example.com, and be sure to sign up for the quarterly Thought Merchants email to get new observations delivered right to you.