Dashboard Insight's Best Dashboard of 2011

Congrats to Mike Moore of West Notifications Group for winning Dashboard Insight's Dashboard Design Contest. Mike chose Tableau to create his dashboard submission because he can build beautiful dashboards quickly. He ultimately won due to his top-notch data visualization and dashboard design skills.

According to Dashboard Insight, here's why he won:

  • Density of information
  • Use of color
  • Choice of metrics to visualize

Density of information
There are two camps when it comes to the amount of information that should be displayed on a dashboard. Some believe you should cram as much information as you can into one screen, while others prefer to keep it as minimal as possible but still informative.

In the case of the contest, the end user is not an analyst, so it's best to keep the metrics as minimal as possible. Mike did a good job showing just enough so that the end user could see their spending habits and savings without overwhelming them with detail.

Use of color
Mike did well in limiting the use of color to only when he needed to highlight key areas of the dashboard. He used red to highlight metrics such as expenses that were over budget and negative balances. For any other type of information, he used tones of gray.

Choice of metrics to visualize
Mike’s dashboard listed a summary of all major expenses and assets so the dashboard shows, at a glance, account balances, mortgage, and savings.

Overall, Mike did a great job building a dashboard that is easy to use. Congrats, Mike!

Click the image to view live dashboard
Personal Finance Dashboard

Comments

#1

Submitted by Chris G. on

Mike's dashboard is a pretty good starting point, but there are a few flaws in it, some fairly obvious, some more subtle that only appear when it's put to use.

The most obvious things I noticed from an initial visual inspection are that the left and center charts in the bottom half are actually quite poor at communicating what appears to be the values of the expenses incurred and paid from two different accounts.

There's not enough room in this comment section to go into the problems, and their solutions, in detail.

I've improved Mike's dashboard, published the improved version to Tableau Public at http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/DashboardDesignContest-CTGEdits/RedesignedDashboard, and documented what I did and why at http://betterbi.wordpress.com.

Briefly, the main problems with these charts are:

The bars in the charts are fat on the left and variable widths in the center.
This has the effect of visually weighting the presented elements differently, although they are apparently representing the same expense categories.

The charts scales are not the same, making visual comparison of the bars inaccurate.
The "Monthly Transaction Summary" chart (MTS) and "Checking Account" (CA) chart seem to be close in scale, but the CA chart and "Credit Card Account" (CCA) chart are clearly not scaled even closely to the same dimension, leading to an over estimation of the magnitude of the CCA values vis-a-vis their counterpart in the CA chart.
e.g. both charts contain "Car Expense", but their magnitudes are very different, although in comparing them it is very difficult to make a an accurate assessment; without their labels there's no way to tell how the relate, and if we need the numbers there's little point in having the bars.

The CA and CCA charts, although vertically aligned, left-edgewise to not have vertically aligned left axes.
This makes direct vertical comparison of the charts' quantities very difficult.

The elements in the MTA, CA, and CCA charts are not uniformly sorted.
At first blush it looks like the sorting is largest-smallest, but in the MTS chart the Travel element is out of sequence.
The CA elements are in big-small order, as are the CCA elements.
But, if the placing of these charts near one another is intended to provide cross-chart comparison, or tracing a common, consistent ordering would serve much better.

Quick: Which element appears in both the CA and CCA charts?
Shouldn't it be easy to tell?

Quick: Which MTS element appears in neither of the CA or CCA charts?
Again, it should take little more than a glance to find out.

Once I spotted these problems, I decided to take a stab at improving the dashboard.
Since Mike had posted it to Tableau Public I was able to download it and give it a whirl.

#2

Submitted by Chris G. on

I've posted an updated article describing all the changes I made to improve the dashboard's clarity and communicative power to: http://betterbi.biz/ImprovingTheBestDashboardOf2011.html

The improved version remains on Tableau Public at: http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/DashboardDesignContest-CTGEdits/RedesignedDashboard?:embed=yes&toolbar=yes&:tabs=no

#3

Submitted by Eric S. on

Chris, one of the flaws you mentioned was that the charts are not uniformly sorted. If the user selects the Budget, Spent, or Variance column heading and sorts it, only that table sorts, The budget vs. spend and variance by month charts remain in the original order. It's also confusing that the Select Month on the left is aligned with the rows of the items to the right. My initial thought was that the results were by month from top to bottom when in fact they are by activity type. We've been looking for a way to have multiple tables/charts next to each other that all have the same order but to only show the labels for the order in the first one (as in this example). Unfortunately, we have not found a way to either a) make them all retain consistent ordering when one is sorted or b) suppress the ability to sort. Any ideas? I suppose every column could be created separately and the headers could then be text boxes. This way nothing could be sorted.

Eric S.

#4

Submitted by chris.gerrard (not verified) on

Eric, the article on my improvements to the dashboard at:
http://betterbi.biz/ImprovingTheBestDashboardOf2011.html
addresses the problems identified, and others.

It's easy to suppress the labels for sorting dimensions. In the simple case, toggling "Show Header" in the dimension pill's menu will do it.

As to common ordering of distinct vizzes: it's not a problem in the redesigned dashboard as I've combined the separate tables and charts into singletons. I'm not sure I have a solution for the general case, will ponder it some.

I hope I interpreted your points correctly.

#5

Submitted by Geoff (not verified) on

I am curious as to how you created the single column for the Activity Type. Try as I might, I cannot come up with a solution that does not include a calculated null field.

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