Best Practice
Embedded BI

BI Dashboard Design Best Practice (Part 3) - Enhancing your dashboard

This article will focus on some simple techniques you can use for enhancing your dashboard, so that the information presented is more meaningful.

Data Comparison

The following chart shows the number of house insurance policies sold each month. It’s not difficult to immediately see that June has the lowest number of sales compared to the other months in 2014.

However, if we include the previous year, we can see that there was actually some improvement of sales in June.

Also even though October looks like a good month in 2014, it is the month that didn’t perform as well as 2013. Being able to compare data from previous years helps understanding as it provides context.

Depending on the message we are trying to deliver, providing different types of comparisons give people different types of context, which may produce different stories in your data.



The chart beneath shows a comparison of the revenue generated by selling a type of tea in different cities. To improve the chart, we can change the order of the different sections, from largest to smallest, so it more obvious about the ranking, as shown in the chart on the right.

Alternatively, if you want to make it easier to look at the items, you could arrange them into alphabetical order. By adding simple ordering, it makes the information shown in the pie chart easier to digest.

Consistent scales

Can you easily tell the difference of the two charts below? How about the charts shown below? Again, they are using the same data, but they look quite different.

This is because the starting point on the Y axis is different, one starting at 50 and the other 60, which can confuse people even more. How about the two charts shown below?

The two charts are using different data. Even when we don’t combine the two charts together into one chart, it’s still not too hard to compare the two lines as the Y axis on both starts at 50 rather than zero.

With a consistent scale on the axis, it’s much easier to understand or compare information shown in similar charts.


By consistently applying some simple rules to your charts it can make a big difference to your dashboard and how easy it is to interpret the data being shown. My recommendations are:

  • Comparison gives you better context
  • Ordering adds meaning to the data being shown
  • Consistent axis reduces confusion

Read part 1 of 3 - Dashboard Design Best Practice (Part 1) – Why consistent dashboard design is important
Read part 2 of 3 - Dashboard Design Best Practice (Part 2) – Effective use of colour

Written by Ken