One of the fundamental principles of UX design is that it mimics real-life experiences. Digital experience always draws experience from the physical world. And the Dashboard is nothing different. Do you remember when the first time you saw a dashboard was? Well, let me tell you they existed far back from the age of the internet & mobile apps.
Yes, you heard it right.
So, what is a dashboard?
The Dashboard is an array of simple controls and gauges to perform essential tasks and show the system's status of various components.
For example, in the car, the dashboard, you have to control the vehicle and gauges to show information about speed, fuel, etc.
So how do we translate similar user experiences into our digital product?
It's quite easy. All you have to do is a simple exercise. List down all the information you want to include on a strictly notes and categorize them in 3 groups:
1. Action Driving Information:
Don't just show data to the users; use data to drive user actions. Gaming products rely heavily on such data. These information sets can trigger users to act and drive engagement. The more action a user can take from the Dashboard, the more involved he will feel, and as the time investment of the user increases, so is the likeability of the product. Identifying such data can multiply your retention rate.
The Dashboard of an investment app indicates that my net profit has increased by 30% this week and gives me an option to invest more. Or, in case of loss, it asks me to withdraw my investment. Associating an action with data points makes data more valuable. It's a delight factor in your UX Design. The user feels more in control of the situation. We don't want users to see information and then go to a different page and take five more steps to perform the necessary action.
2. Insight driving information:
These are information that has more in-depth, valuable information hidden in it. These numbers might not drive user engagement but help users interpret the data in a more consumable or relatable way. You can use these data points in your dashboard design to reflect the value of your platform.
Let's understand it with the help of an example.
I see two data points on a dashboard website analytics dashboard. In the last 90 days, my website traffic has increased by 50%, but the signup rate has decreased by 10%. If seeing these two data points individually, they tell me two different stories. One looks good, but the other looks bad.
But what does this information imply?
The insight might tell that although more people visit my website, they are not interested in my product. So maybe my targeting is not relevant to my product. The relevancy score of my ad is low. Perhaps I should change my advertising.
Adding insight into your Dashboard increases the overall value of your product.
3. Vanilla Informations:
As coined by our product experts, these are necessary information about the system's status or progress. They have a plan flavor, and hence we call them Vanilla Information. These are simple to interpret and need not have more in-depth stories to tell. For example, the Dashboard of a "to-do" app shows the total number of completed, pending, and created tasks.
Now, we are done with the categorization. Depending on what kind of product you are making, we can prioritize the above categories to create a great user experience of our Dashboard.
In case you are building products whose primary goal is to perform a particular task or create something new. You should prioritize Action Driving Information in your Dashboard.
Example an invoicing software, test creating tool.
In case you are trying to build a product whose primary goal is to analyze data. You should give insight driving information as the first preference on your dashboard's UX design. For example, google analytics—performance analysis products.
If your product's primary objective is to monitor or keep track of something, like a fitness app or logistic tracking app. you should prioritize the Vanilla Informations. This information is critical for users: heart rate, sugar level, or delivery status of a consignment.
There can be cases where your product is more complex and can fall in more than one category. So, what do you do then? Well, in such scenarios, stick to basics.
In case the product you are trying to create is more complex and falls in more than one case listed above. Then, we will have to identify the primary and secondary objectives of the app.
For example, let's assume you are creating a stock market trading app that analyzes purchase behavior. It satisfies case 1 and case2. But as a founder or a product person, you have to make a call to define which one is the primary case and which one is the secondary use case of the app.
You can't have two primary objectives/goals of a product. It's very tempting for founders to assume that both are primary goals. But For a while, you have to remove your founder's hat and put on a UX Designer's hat. So you have to trade off one feature with another. If the primary objective is to buy and sell, we have to prioritize the action-driving information, and then insight driving information will follow.
Similarly, if your product falls in all the first 3 cases, you have to identify primary, secondary, and tertiary goals off the app and prioritize the Dashboard information accordingly.
There might exist complex cases where you have to create more than one Dashboard, one for the task, and others for insights and information. Well, still, the principle remains the same.