Introduction

An interactive dashboard is an informative business reporting tool designed to present complex information in an well organized, interactive format. It allows for the interactive exploration of data, manipulation of the visualizations and drilling down into the details of the data in order to get valuable insights. The ultimate goal of an interactive dashboard is to deliver useful information in a concise and actionable manner.

Creating an interactive dashboard in Excel can be beneficial in numerous ways. It can help a business gain meaningful insights from their data, visualize the key metrics and trends, identify areas for improvement, make well informed decisions faster and get more informed feedback from stakeholders.


Step 1: Familiarizing Yourself With Excel

Creating an interactive dashboard in Excel requires you to be comfortable with its many functions. To get the most out of it, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the tool and its capabilities. Here are some ways of getting up to speed with Excel ― so you can begin designing your dashboard.

Learning the Basic Functions

When getting started with Excel, the best way to become familiar with its capabilities is to understand the different functions it offers. These can include basic math operations to more advanced data analysis features. You can use the help feature within the program to learn more about each of the functions available.

Becoming Comfortable with the Excel Interface

Once you’re familiar with the various functions available in Excel, it’s important to get comfortable with the interface. To do this, practice navigating around the menus to find the features you need. And try to become familiar with keyboard shortcuts and how to use the ribbon menu. This will help speed up your workflow as you create your interactive dashboard.


Step 2: Putting Data into the Document

Creating an interactive dashboard in Excel is a process which starts by inputting the necessary data into the document. This step can be broken down into two components: establishing columns and rows, and importing data.

Establishing columns and rows

The structure of the data in an Excel document is determined by the number and arrangement of columns and rows. Before you can begin to enter data, you must establish the column and rows you will use. To calculate the approximate amount of columns and rows you will need, you should consider the following: what type of data you plan on inputting, and the size of your dataset. Once you have established the amount of columns and rows you will need, you can start inputting data.

Importing your data

Once the columns and rows have been created, you can begin to import your data into the document. There are a few ways to do this; you can type in the data manually, copy and paste from another document, or use a third-party program or external source to import the data. If you are using a third-party program or external source, ensure that the format of the imported data matches the format of the columns and rows in your Excel document, as this will ensure the data is imported correctly.


Step 3: Formatting the Cells

Once the data is arranged into the desired table format, it is time to format the cells. This involves inserting formulas and using chart wizard tools to create a chart. With the correct formulas, you can perform mathematical operations on data, compare values among various cells, and create visual representations of the data through charts and graphs. To do so:

Inserting formulas

Formulas are used to perform mathematical operations on data and can be inserted in Microsoft Excel by typing an equal sign followed by the required operation in the cell. For instance, to add two numbers together in two separate cells (cell A1 and cell A2), use the following formula in cell A3:

  • =A1+ A2

Once you have inserted the formula in the cell and saved the file, the result of the operation will be displayed in the cell. You can use different types of operations to manipulate data and insert formulas in multiple cells to make the dashboard interactive.

Working with chart wizard tools to create a chart

Once the formulas have been inserted, you can use the chart wizard tools to create a chart for the dashboard. Chart wizard tools are used to create visual representations of the data in the form of chart or graph. To do so, select the data you want to chart, and then go to 'insert > chart.' This will bring up a new window with several chart types and templates. Select the appropriate chart type and template you want to use, and click 'OK' to create the chart. Your chart will now appear on the dashboard and will interactively show the effects of the manipulated data.

Once you've inserted the formulas and created the chart, you can start formatting the dashboard according to your needs. There are several formatting options available in Microsoft Excel such as formatting the font, font size, text alignment, background color, etc. You can also apply borders, shading, and different effects to the cells to make the dashboard look more customized.


Step 4: Adding and Removing Elements

Now it's time to add additional elements to the dashboard so you can interact with the data. But what components should you add? This depends on the information you are trying to convey and the end user's desired outcome. As a general rule of thumb, you should focus on adding interactive elements such as filters and dropdown boxes so users can easily manipulate the data.

Creating Filters and Dropdown Boxes

The most common interactive element to add to an Excel dashboard is a filter. Filters can be used to allow users to view certain subsets of the data or to select a certain range of values. By adding a filter, you can dramatically reduce the amount of data a user has to sift through to find the most relevant insights. To add a filter, simply select the data and click on the ‘Data’ tab. From there, you can select the ‘Filter’ option.

You can also add dropdown boxes to a dashboard. These are useful when you want to allow a user to select an option from a list. To add a dropdown box, select the cell where you want it to be displayed and click on the ‘Data’ tab. From there, you can select the ‘Data Validation’ option and select the list of options you want to be displayed in the box.

Inserting Text Boxes, Images, and Other Design Elements

In addition to filters and dropdowns, you also have the option of adding other design elements to your dashboard. Text boxes and images can be used to add more context to the data and make it easier for the user to understand. To add a text box, simply click on the ‘Insert’ tab and select the ‘Text Box’ option. To add an image, select the ‘Insert’ tab and select the ‘Picture’ option.

You can also add colorful charts, graphs, and other visual elements. Select the ‘Insert’ tab and select the ‘Chart’ option to create a graph that can be used to visualize the data. You can also select the ‘Shapes’ option to add circles, lines, and other shapes to the dashboard.


Step 5: Wrapping Up Your Dashboard

Once you have all your data, graphics, and visualisations added to Excel dashboard, it's time to format the dashboard so it looks consistent and attractive. This involves adjusting the fonts, cell colours, and other visual elements. You can also include headers and footers so your dashboard looks more professional.

Formatting the dashboard to make it look consistent

To format your Excel dashboard, start by using consistent font styles, sizes, and colour schemes. Select fonts that are easy to read, such as Arial or Calibri. You can also use colour to draw attention to specific elements of your dashboard and make them stand out.

Saving your dashboard in a selected format

Once you’re done formatting your dashboard, you need to save it in a suitable file format so it can be shared or accessed easily. Excel supports several file formats, including .xlsx, .xlsm, .xltx, and .xltm. You can also save your dashboard as .pdf, .csv, .tsv, and other static formats.


Conclusion

An interactive dashboard in Excel can be a powerful, flexible and user-friendly way to help visualize data and make critical decisions in an organization. Having a well-crafted interactive dashboard can help professionals gain insight into their data in a meaningful, useful way. It can provide users with easy access to analytics that help to better understand their data, uncover trends, and make sense of the many numbers associated with an organization.

Creating an interactive dashboard in Excel can be fairly simple, but there is a specific process involved to make sure it’s developed correctly and that it meets the goals of the organization. This process can be broken down into the following steps:

  • Identify the target metrics
  • Gather the data and store it into a repository
  • Set up the Dashboard layout
  • Design the connected charts and tables
  • Add formulas for displaying actual performance against targets
  • Create the required filters
  • Include parameters for user control
  • Publish the dashboard

Using Excel to create an interactive dashboard, with the proper design, can be a great way to build user confidence and understanding in the data behind an organization and empower leaders to create data-driven decisions.

Expert-built dashboard templates

100+ Dashboard templates