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BI Dashboard Design Best Practice (Part 1) - Why consistent dashboard design is important

This article is to emphasise why consistent dashboard design is important, so that you always use best practice when you design a business intelligence dashboard.

Communication in general has lots of ambiguity which often results in misunderstandings. To help solve the problem, people draw pictures or use other media to get the message across. This includes using charts in a business intelligence dashboard.

An example of inconsistency

When you look at the door on the right, can you easily tell if you need to push or pull the door to open it? If this style of door was fitted throughout an office, like the floorplan shown below, people will feel really confused. If a fire alarm rings it could cause delays and bottlenecks as people will have to push some doors and pull others to get out of the building.

Why would an office be laid out like this? I actually had a similar experience when I was in primary school. You had to push some of the doors and pull others in the building. When I asked the administrator why he told me it was because the doors were fitted at different times over many years.

When someone fitted a new door they didn’t check the style of the others. If you develop a dashboard today and then half a year later you add some new charts without following previous guidelines, you might end up with the same level of inconsistency which can lead to misinterpretation and confusion. How about the following floor plan?  

When the doors are fitted in in one particular way it creates consistency and in the event of a fire drill people wouldn’t need to worry about how to open the doors to get outside.

Benefits of consistency

With consistency you have fewer options. When you have less options it’s easier to make decisions. With consistency you have less to remember and less to learn. With consistency things can be consistently understood by different people.


One of the biggest challenges related to the design of a business intelligence dashboard is enabling consistent understanding. When the same chart is presented to different people, you want them to have the same understanding of the data. By consistently following the same principles in a dashboard, we can help people to communicate more effectively based on the information shown on their charts.

Related Articles

Read Part 2 of 3 Dashboard Design Best Practice - Effective use of colour. Read Part 3 of 3 Dashboard Design Best Practice  - Enhancing your dashboard.

Written by Ken