An interactive dashboard is a visual representation of data that provides an overview of the performance of a business. It presents data in graphical form and usually includes key performance indicators (KPIs) that track progress against pre-defined goals. Dashboards also help to identify trends and quickly identify areas that need improvement or require more attention.

The benefits of interactive dashboards are clear; they enable stakeholders to obtain key insights from large amounts of data quickly and easily. They also provide stakeholders with a more complete view of business performance, since dashboards are often integrated with other business systems and data sources. By leveraging advanced techniques, users can create interactive dashboards in Excel that provide enhanced control and flexibility.

Advanced Techniques for Creating Interactive Dashboards in Excel

Creating data-driven interactive dashboards in Excel can require extensive customization and sophisticated coding principles. From basic formatting to more complex components, Excel offers a variety of advanced customizations that make creating interactive dashboards easier.

Adding Buttons

Using the ‘Form Control’ option in the ‘Developer’ ribbon, users can add interactive buttons to their dashboards. These buttons can be assigned formula or triggers to manipulate or link data in the spreadsheet. Buttons can also be used to modify cell or background formatting.

Using the Office UI Fabric Components

The Office UI Fabric allows users to embed HTML into their Excel documents. This includes components such as buttons, dropdowns, and input boxes. This allows the user to create enhanced functionality and complex interactivity with their dashboards.

Hiding/Showing Multiple Objects

Using the ‘Group’ feature in the ribbon, users can hide or show multiple objects with a single command. This is especially useful for creating interactive buttons which open and close various menus. Furthermore, it allows users to show and hide multiple objects quickly and easily.

Using Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting in Excel allows users to apply custom formatting based on specified criteria. This can be used to justify various features of interactive dashboards, such as highlighting certain columns or rows based on values or triggers.

Utilizing Get & Transform

The ‘Get & Transform’ feature in Excel allows users to quickly and easily pull data from many different sources. Furthermore, it allows the user to better understand and manipulate the data to suit the requirements of the dashboard. This makes creating complex interactive dashboards much easier.

Steps to Create an Interactive Dashboard

Building a Dynamic Framework

At the most basic level, to create an interactive dashboard, you must have a dynamic framework in place. This means that you must have a way to connect each element of your dashboard to an underlying data source. This approach allows you to have a real-time, data-driven dashboard that can be easily updated when the underlying data changes. There are a variety of ways to build a dynamic framework, including the use of a lookup formula, the OFFSET formula, and linked tables.

Designing the Layout

The layout of your dashboard will determine how users interact and understand it. At the same time, it is also important to keep in mind that your dashboard should look visually appealing. To ensure your dashboard has the desired effect, consider the following: the size, font, colour, and layout of the dashboard. When designing the layout of your dashboard, it is important to take into consideration the user experience and ensure that the dashboard is easy to navigate and understand.

Inserting Action Buttons

Action buttons are one of the most powerful features of an interactive dashboard. They allow users to interact with the dashboard by selecting parameters and executing specific tasks. Depending on the type of dashboard, you can insert action buttons such as filters, slicers, forms, or macros. Each of these action buttons allow users to interact with the dashboard and the underlying data in different ways.

Connecting Data Sources

In order to make your dashboard dynamic, you must have a way to connect each element of the dashboard to an underlying data source. This could be a spreadsheet, a database, an API, or another cloud-based source. Depending on the type of data source, you may need to use different methods to connect it to your dashboard, such as creating a linked table or using the Web Data Connector.

Adding Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting is a great way to quickly visualize data trends and patterns. It can also be used to highlight specific values in a dashboard. When using conditional formatting on a dashboard, it is important to ensure that the formatting has a purpose and is helping to communicate the story behind the data. When setting up the formatting rule, you can use different measures such as cell value, color scales, or data bars.

Formatting the Dashboard

After designing and connecting the data sources, it is important to make sure that the dashboard looks visually pleasing. This includes adding visual elements such as grids, fonts, colors, and shapes. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the dashboard is easy to read, which can be done by adding labels and easing the navigation. As a final step, you should ensure that the dashboard is optimized for different devices.

Inserting Narrative Text

Narrative text can be added to your dashboard to help guide users when navigating the interactive elements. You should insert text to explain the purpose of the dashboard, to provide contextual information, or to call attention to specific elements. When adding narrative text to a dashboard, it is important to keep it concise and relevant.

Tips for Improving the Design

Designing an interactive dashboard in Excel can improve the way your data is displayed and communicated to viewers. In order to make the most out of Excel's tools, it's essential to consider a few design tips for creating an engaging dashboard.

Creating an Uncluttered Layout

The main point to remember when creating an interactive dashboard in Excel is to keep the layout as uncluttered as possible. Overcrowding information will make the dashboard appear overwhelming and confuse viewers. To improve the look of the dashboard, keep it simple and focus on presenting what is necessary. Get rid of any irrelevant data, eliminating unnecessary columns and rows.

Keeping Colors Obvious and Simple

Creating an interactive dashboard in Excel also requires some attention to color. Colors should be kept simple and obvious, making it easier for viewers to identify certain elements on the screen. Make sure to choose colors that help divide data into categories and display information in an appealing and eye-catching way.

Adding an Introduction Paragraph

In order to capture your viewer's attention, it's a good idea to start off with an introduction paragraph. This will introduce the dashboard and outline the main topics that you are going to cover. It should be concise, yet informative, to help guide viewers through the dashboard in an effective and efficient manner.

Utilizing Drill-Down Functionality

Finally, it's important to consider the drill-down functionality when creating an interactive dashboard in Excel. This allows viewers to click on the data sets to drill down and view more detailed information about those specific data sets. This is an effective way to provide relevant, detailed information to viewers without overcrowding the dashboard.

Best Practices to Make the Dashboard Easier to Use

The success of an interactive dashboard relies heavily on how the user interacts with it. Implementing certain techniques can help make the experience of using the dashboard smooth, intuitive, and organized. The following are some best practices to consider when designing an interactive dashboard that is easy to use.

Utilizing Smart Filtering

Smart filtering within Excel can be an extremely effective way to quickly filter through data and hone in on the information needed to make an informed decision. Smart filters for an interactive dashboard quickly narrow down sets of data based on combination criteria, allowing users to select only the data they are interested in. This can be done with slicers, but also through Smart Pivot Tables and other features. Excel makes it easy to explore the data and discover new connections.

Taking Advantage of Slicers

Slicers are great for easy visual filtering, allowing users to quickly drill down on data by simply selecting a category from a pre-built list. This is particularly useful to add context to graphs, as users interact with the slices to explore different analytics layers. Slicers are dynamic and update as the input data changes. This makes them an ideal choice for adding to an interactive dashboard.

Utilizing Datasheet Technology

At the core of any interactive dashboard are the datasheets that contain the relevant information. These sheets should be organized, formatted, and populated in an orderly manner that allows the user to clearly understand the connections between the data points. Making the datasheets intuitive and simple to follow is essential to creating a successful dashboard.

Employing Interactive Charts

Interactive charts can clearly illustrate how different data points correlate, providing users with insight into the relationships. It is important to design the dashboard with interactive charts that are dynamic and easily adjustable. This way users can toggle between different sets of data and monitor changes in the trends and correlations.

Interpreting and Analyzing Data

Interpreting and analyzing data is one of the key aspects of creating interactive dashboards in Excel. Using smart observations and data analysis can help uncover useful insights that drive decisions and inform users with valuable information. The following sections provide an overview of how to interpret and analyze data to make the most out of Excel dashboard creation.

Making Smart Observations

Making smart observations is one of the best ways to uncover patterns and relationships in complex data. While observing data sets, the user should focus on identifying relationships like correlations and trends, any outliers, and other important trends in the data. Additionally, establishing the context of the data is an important part of making smart observations. Establishing the context helps the user understand important assumptions such as whether the data is representative of the real world.

Analyzing Patterns

Advanced analysis techniques can also be used to identify patterns in data. These techniques are typically used to uncover macro-level relationships among different data sets so that the user can better understand how different elements of their data interact with each other. For example, regression analysis, correlation analysis, and clustering can be used to identify and visualize the underlying patterns, correlations, and trends in large data sets.

Identifying Data Trends

Identifying data trends is an important part of data analysis. By looking at patterns in data over time, the user can build an understanding of how the data changes and what factors influence it. For example, by looking at sales trends across different regions, the user can uncover information about the effectiveness of marketing initiatives in those regions. Advanced techniques like time-series analysis can be leveraged to identify data trends from complex data sets.


Advanced dashboards can bring even more analytical power and insight to Excel spreadsheets. Excel dashboards are becoming increasingly popular among business and financial analysts. With the help of some advanced techniques, it can be quite easy to make an interactive Excel dashboard with the ability to offer a dynamic look to any set of data.

Summary of Advanced Techniques Used to Create Interactive Dashboards in Excel

Several advanced techniques can make creating a dashboard in Excel easier and faster. This article discussed several of these methods, including using formula-driven charts, using the Conditional Formatting feature, using Sparklines formatting, utilizing custom numeric formats, and adding dynamic text or images to the dashboard.

Benefits of Utilizing Interactive Dashboards

Interactive dashboards offer a range of advantages, such as:

  • Enhanced data visualization
  • A more comprehensive understanding of complex data
  • Ease of creating and modifying dashboards
  • Ability to create reports quickly
  • Self-service analytics
  • Shareability

Interactive dashboards are becoming increasingly popular, as they allow us to gain quick insights into our data and make decisions quickly and easily.

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