Introduction to Excel Dashboard Design

For many business owners and financial managers, Excel is an invaluable resource for effectively monitoring and analyzing data. It's no surprise, then, that dashboards created with Excel have become popular tools for quickly and conveniently accessing such data. But before you can begin constructing an effective Excel dashboard, you must gain an understanding of the basics of Excel dashboard design.

In its most general form, a spreadsheet is a great way to organize and process data. Spreadsheets are versatile tools that allow users to input, store, analyze, and present data in a variety of ways. Excel is the most widely used spreadsheet program on the market.

An Excel dashboard, however, is a bit different from a regular spreadsheet: it's designed to be a visual representation of data. Instead of simply relying on rows and columns of numbers, Excel dashboards make use of intuitive visual elements like charts, graphs, and diagrams to present data in a way that's easier for users to understand and manipulate. Additionally, Excel dashboards enable users to quickly analyze, track, and monitor data as it changes over time.

So, in summary, the difference between a spreadsheet and an Excel dashboard is that the latter is designed to present data in an intuitive and visually appealing way, making it easier for users to correlate, analyze, and learn from the data it contains.

Benefits of Excel Dashboards

An Excel Dashboard provides businesses with an efficient high-level overview of operation, financial position, and performance metrics. Creating an Excel Dashboard offers a number of benefits for the business. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones.

Streamlined Data Access

Having organized data accessible in a single dashboard can save businesses both time and effort in the long run. An Excel Dashboard can provide an overview of multiple databases from one location, allowing managers to make informed decisions more quickly. This eliminates the need to manually review separate databases and provides access to comprehensive data in a more efficient manner.

Clean Visual Representation

Data presented in an Excel Dashboard is presented in a way that is visually appealing and easy to understand. Statistically, humans are more likely to understand and retain data when it is presented in a visually pleasing way. With the help of charts, graphs and other visual elements, important data can be presented in a form that is both easy to read and aesthetically appealing.

Informed Decision Making

Informed business decision making can often be a complex process. With an Excel Dashboard, this process is simplified as all the relevant data is located in one place. This allows managers to draw quick inferences without having to manually review a variety of different databases. Excel Dashboards also present businesses with the opportunity to quickly explore data and uncover trends that they may have not been previously aware of.

Common Features of Excel Dashboards

Excel dashboards provide a powerful way to engage and inform users. There are several features that are commonly included in Excel dashboards, allowing the user to easily explore and understand the data presented.

Graphs, Charts and Tables

Graphs, charts, and tables are fundamental in designing meaningful dashboards. Visual data elements in the form of graphs, charts, and tables allow for more meaningful analysis of data, allowing users to quickly identify trends and relationships between variables. Additionally, incorporating these visual elements into the dashboard helps users to understand the information more easily and quickly.

Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting allows Excel dashboards to become more interactive and informative, providing users with visual clues based on the data. By leveraging a visual emphasis aspect within the dashboard, users can be quickly alerted or informed of outliers or large changes in the data. From color-coding to data bars, conditional formatting is valuable in helping users quickly understand the information contained in the dashboard.


Parameters can add an important level of interactivity to the user experience. By adding adjustable parameters to the dashboard, users can more easily drill down and filter their data. Through the use of parameters, users can filter their data to view only specific sets of data or groups, allowing for more in-depth analysis.

Key Principles of Effective Dashboard Design

Dashboard design can be a daunting prospect for many users of Excel. To ensure that anyone interacting with theExcel dashboard can do so efficiently and appropriately, it is essential to adhere to a few critical design principles.

Minimize Clutter

Dashboard clutter can be incredibly problematic. The Excel dashboard is intended to provide the user with quick, easily digestible information. By including too much information on a single dashboard, the whole document can become overwhelming and ineffective. When creating the dashboard, great care should be taken to avoid making it too busy. A good way to avoid this issue is to follow the 'just enough information' principle.

Adjust for Accessibility

Adjusting for accessibility is critical for effective dashboard design. That means considering the specific accessibility settings of the target audience. That could include font size/type, color scheme, spacing, and associated icons. It is important to carefully adjust all of these elements to ensure that anyone interacting with the Excel dashboard can do so with ease.

Summarize Data, When Appropriate

Finally, it is important to summarize data, when appropriate. By summarizing data, the dashboard can be made even more efficient and easier to process. This can be achieved by aggregating data points into a few key numbers, or presenting trends rather than individual data points. By doing this, the dashboard can be made more concise, but still provide the key insights desired.

Dashboarding Tools

Excel dashboards are a great way for business professionals to make raw data more meaningful and actionable. Dashboards allow users to present quick snapshots of essential performance metrics quickly and efficiently, making data more digestible. Choosing the right tool to create the dashboard is crucial for the effectiveness of the dashboard itself.

When considering a dashboarding tool, there are a few key factors to keep in mind. First, the capabilities of the tool should be considered. Does it support charting? What options are available for data visualization? Is it scalable and does it work with various data sources? The user experience should also be taken into account; is the platform easy to use and understand? Additionally, pricing should be taken into consideration as well. Some platforms offer free or cheaper versions, while others require a larger budget.

Here are three of the most popular dashboarding tools available:

  • Microsoft Power BI

    Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence and analytics service provided by Microsoft. It’s a full featured tool with advanced visualizations and analysis capabilities. Its easy to use interface and scalability make it ideal for users of all skill levels. Power BI also supports many different data sources such as Azure, Excel, and SQL.

  • Tableau Desktop

    Tableau Desktop is a popular data visualization platform, offering powerful drag-and-drop analytics capabilities. It is best suited for more advanced users, as it requires data wrangling and knowledge of SQL in order to get the most out of the tool. Tableau also offers some cloud integration with its Tableau Online platform.

  • Qlik Sense

    Qlik Sense is a powerful, user friendly platform that enables data exploration and analysis. It offers comprehensive visualizations and insights into complex datasets. Additionally, it supports multisource data access and automatic data integration, making it easier for users to connect to their data sources. Qlik Sense is available in various pricing plans to suit any budget.

Best Practices for Excel Dashboard Design

Creating an Excel dashboard requires the correct combination of data structures and analytics, as well as solid design principles. Although the focus of an Excel dashboard should be quick and easy data interpretation and understanding, it should also have a visually pleasing design. The dashboard should also have the capability of handling scalability, slicing, and drilling down into levels of data and reporting. Here are the best practices for successful Excel dashboard design.

Make it easy to interpret

The structure of your Excel dashboard should include strong visuals and layouts that make it easy to interpret and understand the data. This can be achieved by judiciously selecting graphical elements such as charts, diagrams, and even diagrams that allow users to quickly find contextual meaning in the data. Additionally, each element should have enough context and labels to quickly convey the meaning and implications of the data. Finally, the overall structure must be organized so that users can make quick decisions.

Give it a nice look

Your dashboard should also have a visually appealing look. This includes choosing the right colors, fonts, and textures to create an overall pleasing visual experience. Additionally, it’s preferable to use high-resolution images and graphics to draw attention to the data and for context. Finally, it’s important to keep the overall design simple and clutter-free, as too many items will make data interpretation difficult.

Set the dashboard up for scalability

When creating your dashboard, it’s important to keep it scalable. This means that you need to select data that can grow over time and does not become outdated if new data is added. Additionally, when creating charts or graphs, make sure they are flexible enough to accommodate changes to the data. Finally, make sure that users can easily modify the dashboard on their own as needed.

Use slicers and drilldowns

Using slicers and drilldowns allow users to quickly filter data and pull up layers of information in a dashboard. These tools provide an easy way to dive deep into data, enabling users to get a better understanding of the trends, outcomes, and insights hidden within the data. Additionally, they make it easy to compare performance over different periods and evaluate and optimize performance.


Excel Dashboard Design is a powerful tool that provides users with the ability to make better business decisions. By understanding the key features, principles, and best practices of effective dashboard design, users can utilize Excel more effectively. Dashboard tools are also available to make dashboard processes easier.

By understanding the basics of dashboard design, users can understand how to create comprehensive dashboards that will provide the maximum efficiency for their enterprises.

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