Business Intelligence dashboards are becoming more and more prevalent in businesses. Building an effective dashboard following best-practices leads down a comprehensive BI process. In this post, we will try to cover 4 of the most important things to keep in mind when assembling your dashboard.

Good dashboard design simplifies large amounts of data to answer important questions raised by the business. In order to answer these questions, the dashboard needs to tell a clear and defined story while expressing the meaning of the data in clear visualizations, allowing the viewer to dig into the details if necessary.

Bad Example

A quick Google search and we have found a plethora of terribly designed dashboards. Here is one example:

Terrible dashboard
Terrible dashboard design

There is simply too much going on in such a small place, all at once. It is cluttered, and distracting.

How to Create Beuautiful Dashboards?

So how can you avoid making a dashboard that looks awful? When designing a dashboard, keep these 5 things in mind and you will never again create a disaster of a dashboard.

1. The 5-Second Rule

Your dashboard must be able to answer the most frequently asked question by glancing at it. Your viewer should not have to spend more than a few seconds trying to find the answers. You do not want them sitting there trying to interpret your dashboard.

This is not to say that you can’t have more detailed information on your dashboard, but simply make sure that you answer the most frequently asked business questions first.

2. Top-Down Layout

Display the most important insight at the top of your dashboard. Follow up with important details, and end it with more general information to back up your other findings (more granular detail).

When thinking about the first point, you want your most important insight at the top, the insight that answers the most important questions. You are telling a story, just like a journalist. YOu therefor need to gently introduce the topic at a high level, before diving into the details.

3. Less is More

Each of your dashboards should not contain more than 10 visualizations, and you should try to keep it between 5 and 10. Any more visualizations than that and your dashboard will more than likely appear cluttered and distracting for your end user.

If you how many different ways of looking at the data, try to incorporate filters and slicers in order to maximize the use of the visualizations you have on the dashboard already. You can tell many stories with few visuals.

4. Choosing the Right Visual for the Job

It is important that you select the correct visualization according to its purpose. Below is a handy sheet from Financial Times showing you what visualizations you could use for a variety of data types.

Visualization Cheat Sheet for great Dashboards

But whatever you do, don’t select the pie chart. Here is a post I made explaining why you shouldn’t choose the pie chart.


In conclusion, take your time when designing a BI dashboard. It is important that your story gets conveyed in an efficient and clear manner otherwise, you did all that work for nothing. Employ these tips, and you will create beautiful business intelligence dashboards in no time!

I have half a decade of experience working with data science and data engineering in a variety of fields both professionally and in academia. I ahve demonstrated advanced skills in developing machine learning algorithms, econometric models, intuitive visualizations and reporting dashboards in order to communicate data and technical terminology in an easy to understand manner for clients of varying backgrounds.

1 Comment

  1. “We use ClicData to bring our business data together from different sources. We have managed to create some professional looking dashboards for use both internally and externally, all with relative ease.”

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