A Comprehensive Guide to Dashboard Design Errors


Dashboard design can be defined as a process of collecting and organizing data into visualizations or graphical representations, allowing users to make meaningful insights from the data. Microsoft Excel is one of the most commonly used dashboard design tools. Excel dashboards allow easy customization and help to present data in an appealing format. Although Excel is considered to be an easy and user-friendly tool, users may still encounter errors while trying to create their dashboard.

In this blog post, we will explore the different types of Excel dashboard design errors and provide troubleshooting tips to resolve them.

Types of Errors in Dashboard Design

  • Data issues
  • Formatting issues
  • Table issues
  • Graphic issues

Formatting Errors

Creating an Excel dashboard requires meticulous attention to detail. One of most common errors that frustrate users is formatting errors. These errors may occur when copying and pasting data, or when not understanding the difference between dynamic and static data. Fortunately there are solutions to help users quickly identify and resolve formatting errors.

Issues Due to Copying and Pasting Data

When copy and pasting data from an external source into an Excel dashboard, formatting errors may be introduced. This can occur if the chosen format for the dashboard does not match the source data. In Excel, data is stored in cells, which are limited in size to a maximum of 8,192 characters. If the data is larger than this, then cells must be merged, which can lead to formatting errors.

How Dynamic and Static Data Differ

Excel also supports dynamic and static data, which can also cause formatting errors if an incorrect type is used. Static data remains fixed while dynamic data can be easily changed. Static data is ideal when a user wants to enter specific numbers or data into an Excel lookup table; Dynamic data is ideal when creating a formula or when requiring the data in a particular cell to change automatically when other cells are changed.

Solutions for Formatting Errors

To quickly identify the source of formatting errors, users can enable the 'Show Formula' option in Excel. This will show users all the formulas that have been used which helps identify any potential errors. To prevent some of the formatting errors from occurring in the first place, users should always compare the format of the source data to the format of the Excel dashboard before copying and pasting.

  • Enable the 'Show Formula' option in Excel to quickly check formulas.
  • Compare the format of the source data to the format of the Excel dashboard.
  • Verify that merged cells don’t exceed the cell size limit of 8,192 characters.
  • Choose the correct data type for the Excel dashboard, either dynamic or static.

Performance Issues

Performance problems can be the most costly and lengthy to fix in Excel dashboard design. Though no dashboard is perfect, and some lag or slowdown is to be expected, there are certain measures that can be taken to limit and track these issues.

Troubleshooting Lag Time

Lag time typically happens when a dashboard is dealing with large amounts of data or complicated calculation requests. To reduce lag time, start by optimizing and refining any calculations- using simpler expressions whenever possible. Additionally, remove any unnecessary design and formatting that may be bogging down the loading process.

Dealing with Data Volatility

Data changing in size or shape can be one of the most difficult performance issues to address. A scalable, easy-to-replicate solution is needed. Start by re-organizing any existing data into tables and adopting a standardized data input process. Repetitive data manipulation can be handled with macros, saving time and keeping data consistent over time.

Tracking Performance Issues

The best way to identify and troubleshoot these types of issues is by tracking performance. Keeping a log of page load times and data refreshes can offer insights on what needs improvement, allowing for faster detection and resolution. Record analytics of how the dashboard is being used and make changes accordingly.

Incorrect Calculations

Incorrect calculations in an Excel dashboard design can have a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line. To prevent decreased productivity and costly errors, it is important to quickly troubleshoot and repair errors in the dashboard. In this section, we will discuss the different categorizations of incorrect calculations, causes, solutions, and preventative measures that can be taken.

Categorizing Incorrect Calculations

When trying to troubleshoot a dashboard, it’s important to categorize the issue. Common cases of incorrect calculations in an Excel dashboard design include:

  • Referential integrity errors
  • Formula errors
  • Data accuracy problems
  • Arithmetic mistakes

Causes of Incorrect Calculations

There are several potential causes for incorrect calculations in an Excel dashboard design. These can include incorrect formulas, incorrect entries, data inaccuracies, rounding errors, and more. It’s important to identify the cause of the errors in order to fix them.

Solutions for and Preventing Incorrect Calculations

Once the source of the incorrect calculation is identified, the next step is to determine the best way to fix it. One possible solution is to double-check the formula or data entry, or to pause a refresh process to account for new data being entered in the system. If the data is inaccurate, it’s important to double-check the source of the data and correct it on the backend. To prevent incorrect calculations in an Excel dashboard, it is important to use data cross-checked from multiple sources, to be rigorous when checking formulas and data entry, and to double-check any changes that are made.

Unwanted Summaries

Many users run into problems when creating summaries on a dashboard within Excel. These errors can be difficult to identify and solve, so it is important to know the causes and solutions for unwanted summaries.

Determining Unwanted Summaries

Unwanted summaries can be detected by looking for discrepancies between the expected total and set total. If the expected total is not equivalent to the set total, there could be an unwanted summary. Additionally, the group names can display differently depending on the visual display, while the dataset being used to display the summary may be accurate.

Causes of Unwanted Summaries

There are numerous potential causes of unwanted summaries. Summaries can display differently if the user incorrectly combines or splits groups, or if the user is linking labels to multiple groups. Unwanted summaries can also occur if the user makes errors when editing labels, or when linking one or more labels.

Solutions for and Preventing Unwanted Summaries

The best way to prevent unwanted summaries is to carefully double-check the data being entered in the dashboard. Additionally, make sure that the labels are linked correctly and that multiple labels are not being linked. It is also important to carefully map groups so that the summaries display correctly.

  • Carefully double-check data inputs
  • Ensure labels are linked correctly
  • Avoid linking multiple labels
  • Map groups correctly

Graphical Display

Displaying data graphically is an important part of Excel dashboard design, as it helps make complex data easier to understand. However, errors in graphical display can negatively impact the dashboard’s look and can cause some data points to be misinterpreted. It is important to identify and troubleshoot any graphical display errors.

Potential Graphical Display Errors

Common errors in graphical display in Excel dashboards can include incorrect use of colors, inconsistencies in labels and axis, and unclear data points. These issues can make the dashboard look unprofessional and lead to confusion among viewers. Incorrect scales, overlapping charts, and incorrect font sizes can also cause graphical display errors.

Troubleshooting Graphical Display Errors

The first step to troubleshoot graphical display issues is to review the data visualization guidelines of your organization or project. These guidelines should include criteria such as the use of specific colors, chart types, and scales. Once you are familiar with standard visualization guidelines, you can start to investigate any potential errors.

It is also important to frequently review your graphs to ensure accuracy. Simple errors can cause misinterpretation of data points and can be hard to spot. Compare the data points with the data behind the graph, or have a second person review the graph to ensure there are no missteps.

Solutions for Graphical Display Errors

The solutions for graphical display errors depend on the type of issue and the data being visualized. For example, if the color scheme is not correct, the solution may be to use a different set of colors or to increase the font size. For issues with axis inconsistency, the solution could be to use a more appropriate data range or to add labels to axes.

In some cases, it may be best to discard the graph and start from scratch. This may be necessary if the errors are significant and cannot be easily fixed. Throughout this process, be sure to continuously review your dashboard for errors and ensure data is accurately represented.


Excel dashboard design has numerous benefits to monitoring data within a business, but errors can often occur. It is important to develop an understanding of how to troubleshoot any errors that occur in order to create dynamic dashboards that are tailored to your organizaiton's goals.

Correlating Errors to Solutions

It is important to begin by correlating any errors to common solutions. For example, if an error occurs related to a macro, assess the macro code for errors in syntax or for any issues linking it to the data or other elements within the dashboard. Checking for these types of issues can often resolve the issue. Furthermore, assess the dashboard for general formatting errors that can cause issues with how the dashboard looks and works. Finally, look for any discrepancies between the calculated fields and the data that may create an issue.

Continuing to Monitor Errors

In addition to these steps, it is important to continue to monitor for errors. If errors continue to occur, assess the data sources to determine if discrepancies between fields may be causing an issue. Additionally, ensure the data sources are up to date to make sure that any new information is being pulled correctly.

Conclusion Statements

In conclusion, properly troubleshooting errors in Excel dashboard design requires a careful review of the dashboard source code, formatting and data sources. With these steps, it is possible to ensure a smooth working dashboard that best fits the organization’s goals.

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