Introduction

An Excel dashboard is a visual representation of different data points and metrics in spreadsheet format. Dashboards provide meaningful insights that help to quickly assess performance trends and provide direction, and they come in various formats depending on the needs of the user.

Creating a useful dashboard is a key skill for many of today's professionals, as these graphical representations of data can help teams to identify areas that need improvement or uncover opportunities that have not yet been explored. By designing an insightful Excel dashboard, decision makers can review necessary metrics, monitor progress, and effectively identify key performance indicators.

In this blog post, we will take a look at the best practices for designing an insightful Excel dashboard. We will cover topics such as data selection, customization options, and tips for displaying data effectively.


Ensure Your Data is Accurate

Accuracy is the foundation for any Excel dashboard. Designing a dashboard with unreliable data leads to unreliable insights drawn from it. To create a reliable dashboard that leads to an insightful analysis of the data, there are a few best practices you can follow when working with the data.

Rely on Robust Data Sources

When starting to design a dashboard, it is important to consider where you are obtaining the data. Rely on databases and resources that are regularly updated and contain comprehensive data. Make sure that all data has one source to maintain data integrity and accuracy.

Double-Check All Calculations

When you are manipulating and analyzing your data, double-check all calculations that you come up with to be sure that the results are accurate. This is essential in the design of an insightful Excel dashboard. Take the time to thoroughly proofread your results and make sure that any trends or insights you may be able to draw from the data are actually real and not based on an error in a calculation.


3. Design for Accessibility

Excel dashboards are an important part of any presentational data, however, for them to be effective and easy to read, they must be designed with accessibility in mind. This doesn’t just mean providing information to those with physical or mental impairments, but also involves designing for the general user in mind. Here are a few best practices to create an Excel dashboard that’s easily accessible to everyone.

a. Keep fonts large and clear

Font size is an important part of making your dashboard accessible. You want to make sure the text is large enough to be easily legible and free of clutter. Keep the font size at least 12 points and use a sans-serif font to make the dashboard as legible as possible. You can also use font size and bold font to create a hierarchy of information, helping to make the dashboard easier to navigate and read.

b.Use contrasting colors

Color choice is paramount when creating a successful Excel dashboard. It’s important to make sure that the colors you choose for different elements are contrasting so that all the information is easily visible and understandable. Avoid using shades of similar colors, as it can make the dashboard harder to interpret. Try to use bright, vibrant colors so that the data stands out and is easily readable, especially for those with color blindness.

c. Use simple and intuitive formats

The format of the dashboard is just as important as its color scheme. Use a grid-based format for your Excel dashboard to ensure the data points are easy to find and compare. The key to an effective dashboard is its simplicity, so try not to overcrowd the dashboard with too much information — it may look cluttered and make it harder to read and interpret. Additionally, use an organizational chart or graph that makes sense and clearly communicates the data with labels and visuals.


Limit the Number of Visuals

One of the key best practices for designing an insightful Excel dashboard is to limit the number of visuals. Excessive visuals can create confusion, as well as detract from the actual data. Furthermore, it can also take up unnecessary space and draw the viewer’s focus away from the most important insights. Therefore, it is essential to be judicious when incorporating visuals into your data insights.

Keep Visuals Clean and Easily Readable

When using visuals, it is essential to ensure that they are kept clean and easily readable. Complicated and ineffective visuals can result in the wrong message being conveyed, and this can lead to miscommunication or misinterpretation.

Use Visuals Only When Appropriate

When designing a dashboard, it is important to determine which visuals are most appropriate and serve the purpose of the dashboard best. Furthermore, it is important to use visuals sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. Excessive use of visuals can lead to a mess of irrelevant visuals that detract from any useful insights and confuse the end user.


5. Make Sure Your Vivids are Meaningful

Creating charts and tables with meaningful visualizations should be top priority when creating an Excel dashboard. By providing insightful visuals that can easily be interpreted, users can quickly grasp important insights without getting lost in an overabundance of data. Here are some best practices to consider when creating meaningful visuals:

a. Present a Single Key Message in Each Chart/Table

Every chart or table should be designed to quickly show the single most important insight. It is helpful to ask the question, “If a user looks at this chart or table - what immediate conclusion can they make?” If there are multiple key messages, consider breaking it up into multiple visuals so viewers can focus on one message at a time.

b. Ensure Charts are Tailored to the User

Charts should be tailored to the user’s needs. Consider the user’s skill level and the complexity of the data being presented. It is important to provide visuals that are not too simple or too complex. It is also helpful to make use of context such as color, labels, and titles in order to clearly communicate the message of the visual.

By taking into consideration these best practices for designing meaningful visuals, users of the Excel dashboard will be able to easily identify important insights and gain actionable takeaways from the data.


Create Interactivity

When it comes to designing an Excel dashboard, adding features that promote interactivity with users is key. By incorporating interactive features, users can explore different types of data and engage more deeply with the dashboard, helping to make it more insightful. The following are some of the best practices for creating interactivity.

Layer visuals to support various levels of data detail

Layered visuals allow users to explore their data bit by bit, meaning they don’t have to be overwhelmed with all of the data at one time. Instead, visuals are progressively displayed, allowing users to gradually gain more insight as they dive deeper into the data. Visuals can be organized by timelines, categories, and contexts for a more interactive experience.

Create drill-down and filtering options

Drill-down and filtering options are perfect for users who are looking to delve deeper into the data. Through filtering options, users can select specific data points from the dashboard and quickly analyze trends, spot correlations, and gain more insight. Drill-down options allow users to view the same data points, but from different angles, allowing them to see how the data is connected and how it can be used to draw meaningful conclusions.

  • Filtering options allow users to select specific data points and quickly draw correlations.
  • Drill-down options allow users to view the same data points from different angles.
  • Layered visuals help users gradually gain insights as they explore.


Conclusion

An insightful Excel dashboard can offer tremendous value to a business by providing quick access to important information and insights. Despite its simplicity, careful design is necessary. The following are essential best practices when designing an Excel dashboard:

  • Choose the right visualizations and data sources.
  • Pay attention to the aesthetics, such as color and layout.
  • Organize the elements to ensure a logical progression.
  • Explain the connections between data points.
  • Involve stakeholders in the design process.
  • Keep the dashboard up-to-date.

When applied correctly, thoughtful dashboard design motivates appropriate action, allows for better decisions, and increases user engagement. Dashboards can also help to track progress and any areas of concern.

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