What 5 things make a great business dashboard?

In today’s data-centric world, the ability to deliver and consume insights effectively is paramount for businesses. A Business Dashboard, when well-crafted, serve as the central hub for data insights, offering both a quick overview and detailed analysis of essential metrics, trends, and actionable information.

This article outlines five essential practices for building an informative analytics business dashboard, transforming yours from static chart aggregator into a dynamic tool that empowers decision-makers.

Planning Your Business Dashboard Data Story

The primary goal of a business dashboard is to narrate a compelling data story. To achieve this, start by understanding your audience and defining clear objectives that align with their needs. Once the objectives are set, identify the relevant metrics and KPIs that support them. Finally, devise an engaging and comprehensible presentation format for these critical insights.

Planning your data story is a crucial step in creating an effective analytics dashboard. It involves structuring the information on your dashboard in a way that conveys a clear and compelling narrative.

Here’s how you can plan your data story in 10 simple steps:

By carefully planning your data story, you can create a business dashboard that not only presents information but also tells a compelling narrative that helps users make informed decisions and take meaningful actions.

Make Your Business Dashboard Interactive

A well-organised dashboard goes beyond structured insights. It allows users to interact with data flexibly, enabling ad-hoc analysis for agile decision-making. Modern BI platforms offer various capabilities for users to explore data independently and uncover deeper insights.

Making your business dashboard interactive is essential to engage users and enable them to explore data on their terms.

Here are some strategies to make your dashboard interactive:

More data, more accessible

Drill-Down and Drill-ThroughAllow users to click on charts or data points to access more detailed information. For example, clicking on a specific bar in a bar chart can reveal a breakdown of data for that category.
Filters and ParametersIncorporate filters that enable users to customise the data they see. Users can select date ranges, regions, products, or any other relevant criteria to refine the dashboard’s content.
Interactive Charts and GraphsUse interactive chart types like line charts, scatter plots, or heatmaps that respond to user interactions. Users can hover over data points to see values or click to zoom in on specific data ranges.
Dashboard InteractionsCreate interactions between different elements of your dashboard. For example, selecting a specific region on a map could filter data in a related chart to show only data for that region.
Highlighting and SelectionImplement highlighting effects when users hover over or select data points. This provides immediate feedback and focuses the user’s attention.
Mobile OptimisationEnsure that your dashboard is responsive and optimised for mobile devices, making it easy for users to interact with the data on the go.

More features, more use

TooltipsInclude tooltips that display additional information when users hover over data points or elements. Tooltips can explain abbreviations, provide context, or offer data source details.
Interactive FiltersUse interactive widgets like sliders, dropdowns, or buttons for users to change settings or apply filters. These widgets should instantly update the displayed data.
Export and Download OptionsOffer options for users to export data or visualisations in various formats (e.g., PDF, Excel, CSV). This allows users to take the data with them for further analysis.
Search and Searchable DropdownsInclude a search feature that lets users quickly find specific data points or items within large datasets. Searchable dropdowns are especially useful for selecting items from long lists.
Dynamic DashboardsCreate dashboards with dynamic content that updates in real-time or based on user inputs. For example, a dashboard can display live stock market data that refreshes every few seconds.

More functionality, more help

Collaborative FeaturesIf the dashboard is meant for collaboration, incorporate features like commenting, sharing, or real-time editing to facilitate discussions and decision-making among users.
Guided AnalyticsInclude guided tours or wizards that walk users through the dashboard’s features and functionalities, especially if it’s their first time using it.
User Training and HelpProvide resources such as tutorials, tooltips, or FAQs within the dashboard to help users understand how to interact with the data effectively.

Remember that the level of interactivity should align with your users’ needs and technical expertise. Some users may prefer a simple, intuitive interface, while others may require advanced interactive features to perform in-depth analysis. It’s essential to strike a balance that meets the diverse needs of your dashboard’s audience

Augment your business dashboard with AI

The rapid advancements in AI offer automation for complex analytics operations while ensuring accuracy. AI capabilities in BI platforms democratise analytics, making it accessible to users with minimal technical expertise. Automated insights, as showcased below, provide instant valuable insights, kickstarting the decision-making process.

Augmenting your business dashboards with AI can significantly enhance their capabilities and provide more insightful and actionable information. Here’s 15 ideas of how you can integrate AI into your dashboards:

To successfully augment your business dashboards with AI, you’ll likely need the expertise of data scientists, AI engineers, or AI-focused software vendors. They can help identify the most suitable AI solutions for your specific business needs and integrate them seamlessly into your dashboard environment.

Get creative with your business dashboard

We turned to Dean Hodges, Director of our creative sister company, Gold Pebble, to help give us some great insights to help get creative with business dashboards.

Unleash creativity in your dashboards to captivate your audience. By employing colours, themes, and layouts strategically, you can draw attention to specific insights while maintaining brand consistency. Incorporating creative elements like text, images, videos, and multimedia components enhances dashboard comprehension and engagement.

Here are some creative ideas to consider when designing your dashboards to ensure they are engaging while still relaying critical information.

Use Colour Psychology

Leverage colour psychology to evoke emotions and convey messages. For example, use green for positive metrics, red for negative ones, and blue for neutrality. Not only does this make the data more easy to read quickly, it reinforces what each metric means for business success. However, use this carefully and ensure colour choices align with your brand’s identity.

Consistent Branding

Maintain brand consistency by incorporating your company’s logo, fonts, and colour palette into the dashboard design. This reinforces your brand identity and fosters recognition. Furthermore it is another reminder to viewers of the importance of brand identity.

Storytelling with Data

Craft a narrative using data. Guide users through a story that unfolds as they interact with the dashboard. Use annotations and commentary to explain the significance of data points. This approach reminds them they are not just looking at a data set – it reflects the perspective of the business at any given time.

Create a dashboard storyboard that outlines the flow of information and interactions. This helps in planning the dashboard’s structure and storytelling.

Creative Typography

Experiment with typography to create emphasis. Use different fonts, sizes, and styles for headings, titles, and data labels. Be consistent with typography choices to maintain readability but use the differences to help viewers understand the importance of different parts of the data.


Integrate icons and symbols to represent data categories or concepts. Icons can simplify complex information and make it more visually appealing. As a result your viewers will remain engaged for longer and be able to keep up with the understanding required to interpret all the information in your dashboard.

Data Visualisation Techniques

Explore unconventional data visualisation methods like word clouds, sankey diagrams, treemaps, or chord diagrams. Choose the visualisation that best suits the data you’re presenting, making it easier to understand at-a-glance the overall picture. Once you have incorporated a particular method make sure you repeat it for consistency and think wisely if you ever consider changing it!


Incorporate infographics or mini-infographics within your dashboard. These visual summaries can quickly convey complex information. The contrast of widgets, diagrams, table and infographics really help keep viewers interested and reduces the amount of time people need to take complex concepts onboard.

Interactive Elements

Add interactive elements like clickable buttons, sliders, or hover effects to engage users. These elements can trigger actions or display additional information. Remember dashboards hold different information for different roles and responsibilities and some viewers may need to drill down to find out more. Frequently an anomaly in data, or a sudden change from the norm might require more research to understand why – being able to interrogate data is crucial to compelling, functional and most importantly usable dashboards!

User Personas

Design with specific user personas in mind. Consider the preferences and needs of different user groups when creating dashboards for various departments or roles. These User Personas can be the basis for each individual tailoring their dashboard to their own specific needs.

Furthermore, gather feedback from users and incorporate their suggestions into the dashboard’s design. User-focused design ensures that the dashboard meets their needs.

White Space

Don’t overcrowd your dashboard with information. Utilise white space effectively to enhance readability and focus on essential data.

Gamification Elements

Gamify your dashboard by adding elements like progress bars, achievements, or badges. This can motivate users to explore data and achieve specific goals.

Experiment and Iterate

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different creative elements and layouts. Continuously test and iterate based on user feedback to improve the dashboard’s effectiveness.

Remember that creativity should enhance the dashboard’s functionality, not hinder it. Ensure that creative elements serve a purpose and contribute to a better understanding of the data. Balance creativity with usability to create dashboards that captivate your audience while delivering valuable insights.

Allow your business dashboard to flourish on all form factors

In today’s mobile-driven world, designing for various devices is essential. Your Business Dashboard should be accessible across devices, prioritising relevant capabilities for each channel. For instance, mobile dashboards focus on real-time alerts and on-the-go decision-making, while desktop versions offer in-depth analytics and advanced features for comprehensive analysis.

Simplify your layouts, build in drill downs, allow personalisation and focus on your narrative to allow all users to get the picture – whatever they are looking at it on!

Zoho Analytics puts accessibility first - allowing Business Dashboards to be usable across all relevant form-factors.
Zoho Analytics puts accessibility first – allowing Business Dashboards to be usable across all relevant form-factors.

Business Dashboards, in conclusion… (for now)

Implementing these best practices empowers organisations to transform their dashboards into powerful decision-making tools. Empowering decision-makers with informative dashboards is key to success in today’s data-driven landscape.

However, what is right for you for today may not be right for the future as your business grows, it is a great practice to keep refining and adding to your business dashboards to ensure they continue to deliver the crucial data you need to drive your business’ essential Data-Driven Decision-Making.

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