Data Visualisation Evangelist
Practical Reporting

As an independent educator and consultant, Nick Desbarats has taught data visualization and information dashboard design to thousands of professionals in over a dozen countries at organizations such as NASA, Visa, The Central Bank of Tanzania, Royal Bank of Canada, The United Nations, Marathon Oil, and Teradata, among many others. From 2014 until launching his own courses in 2019, Nick taught the courses of Stephen Few, and he has designed information dashboards for senior decision-makers at over 50 large organizations. He has extensive knowledge of data visualization, information dashboard design, business intelligence, data analysis, cognition and cognitive biases, perception, memory and learning, software design and development, and product management. His first book, Practical Charts, will be published in late 2020.

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The real reasons so many dashboard disappoint users

Despite the fact that books and courses on information dashboard design have been available for years, many dashboards still end up disappointing users and organizations. Users have trouble finding answers to basic data-related questions and fail to notice urgent problems because they’re hidden behind clicks, hard to notice, or possibly not even displayed on dashboards. Because of these and other problems, many dashboards continue to be under-used or even abandoned. In this talk, Beyond Dashboards author Nick Desbarats uncovers the real reasons why so many dashboards fail to satisfy users and organizations; reasons that go far deeper than the visual design on which most dashboard books and courses focus.

Key takeaways

  • Organizations often assume that, if users don’t like a dashboard, it’s due to poor visual design (layout, chart types, colors, etc.). This is almost never the main cause of user dissatisfaction, however, and improving the visual design rarely improves usage and acceptance.
  • Many enterprise dashboards are “Swiss army knife” tools that attempt to serve a wide variety of data-related needs, but that fail to meet any of those needs effectively.
  • A set of targeted, purpose-specific displays does a far better job of enabling users to get accurate answers to their data- related questions quickly and easily, including basic questions such as, “Is everything OK right now?”
  • The key types of purpose-specific displays are problem-scanning displays, diagnostic displays, performance monitoring displays, slice-and-dice displays, and self-serve analysis displays.

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