Dashboards can be dull. Four or six charts laid out in a grid. All data, no explanation or logical flow. In our white paper on dashboard design (PDF), I got a little perturbed at this model because it offers so little guidance to the reader.
In hopes of sparking some new thinking, here are a half-dozen dashboards that demonstrate innovative designs and features.
1. ThinkUp: Dashboard as News Feed
This clever social media dashboard focuses on the changes and news-worth data updates. Each timeline element that flows down the page can be expanded to show details that supports the headlines.
2. SumAll: Trends, annotations, and goals
SumAll’s recently released tool for trended business data is beautiful in its execution. The interface puts multiple metrics on the same chart to make it easy to see how trends correlate to each other (even though they are on different scale). SumAll does a nice job with allowing user-created comments, setting goals, and anticipating how users will want to read the data. If you design dashboards, it is worth signing up to absorb some of the nice design touches.
3. AppFirst DevOps Dashboard: Key metric trends and thresholds
This dashboard is a more traditional real-time operations dashboard. It shows all the key metrics together along with trends relative to goals. AppFirst has some nice features that you can see in the video including 1) dropping metrics one on top of another to see correlated trends and, 2) “smart thresholds” to highlight points in the historical trends when the metric fell out of an acceptable range.
4. Analysis-One: Creative layout for easy comprehension
Many stoplight-style dashboards can be jarring to look at. This radial approach provides the high-level performance warnings in a subtle and pleasing way.
5. Square: Filtering
Mike Bostock of D3.js fame is the brains behind this dashboard for Square’s retail sales. He used his Crossfilter approach for super simple and fluid filtering.
6. Tweetping and Tron, the Movie show us dashboards of the future.
If you want to build a dashboard with a style that will still work 20 years from now, check out the dark backgrounds, tiny fonts, and animation in these dashboards.
If you’re interested in more well-designed dashboards, Quora has a good discussion on the topic here.