1. Focus on your users, not the data.
Speak to your potential users first!
For example, you want to understand the following:
This information is typically collected by interviews and/or surveys. Occasionally, I have already been able to gain this information through working with the involved team(s) throughout the project. However, even in those cases, I make sure to check in with my potential users to make sure (1) nothing has changed, and (2) the answers I believe are true actually are.
2. The 5 Second Rule and the 1 Second Rule
Your users should be able to find the information they need in about 5 seconds. Each graphic should take less than 1 second to understand.
I have seen dashboards with incredibly complicated graphics, that take far more than 5 seconds to interpret each one. No one, regardless of their experience level with metrics, should be asked to waste their time in this manner.
Keep things simple! The information most people need and/or that is used often should pop out at the users in a simple, clean, uncluttered way. The old adage "Less is More" definitely applies to dashboards.
Yes, you want to provide opportunities for deep dives in the information for those who need it. However, deep dives can be faciliated while still making the dashboard easy to use, clear, and intuitive (e.g., with filters allowing users to drill-down into the data, interactive elements, animation options).
3. Choose Your Layout and Design Carefully.
Make sure you are following basic design principles even if you are using a pre-designed template.
Dashboard design and data visualization design have a substantial knowledge-base. Keep in mind that when you look at the dashboard it should look clean, simple, and easy to understand. I like the ones I design to even look enjoyable to use.
Here are some tips:
4. Be Cautious with Real-time Data
Only provide live data when it is necessary and appropriate.
LIve data can be confusing. As data comes in, it may only be telling part of the story. It is easy to misinterpret. For example, when conducting a survey, it is rare that there are enough results to properly interpret the data until the survey is closed. Avoid live data unless you have a solid reason for providing it. When you do provide live data, make sure you include any applicable warnings.
I have seen poor business decisions being made because the user didn't consider the sample size even though it was clear on the dashboard. These intepretation errors can be costly. Be Cautious.
5. Leave Plenty of Time for Testing and Revising
Test Everything With Your Users
Don't wait until you are completely done with the dashboard to test. You will want to speak to them frequently to make sure that your design is consistent with their needs.
For example, for a complex dashboard, you will likely want to make sure that the organization of your dashboard makes sense to people (e.g., what information is on each page). Cardsorting is traditionally the UX Research method utilized for this.
Regardless of how simple or complex your dashboard is, you will want to understand the following through usability testing:
I also like to know what the users first reaction was to the dashboard. Are they delighted, intimidated, etc.? What can I do to make their first reaction a positive one? Sometimes that is as simple as changing some design details.
Lori Shelby, Ph.D.
Happy Methods Monday! For those of us who frequently use United States Census Bureau data, it is easy to forget that are other great federal data sources in the U.S. Did you know that there are 13 primary agencies for federal statistics data in the United States? Check out the complete list. There is even a fun quiz for you data wonks out there.
Lori Shelby, Ph.D., CEO & Founder
This is a holiday present for those of you who are survey research nerds like me...
Did you know that Likert is actually pronounced Lick urt? Yes, really, That is how Dr. Rensis Likert pronounced his name.
Even what a Likert scale is and is not is widely misunderstood. A five-point scale ranging from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree as is often seen on surveys as a way to answer a question is actually not a Likert scale. However, it is really just an ordinal scale. The misunderstanding likely stems from an oversimplification of Likert's (1932) article that has become a common misbelief over time. Likert was actually putting forward a methodology to uses a series of questions to develop a scale that includes different dimensions of a subject.He directly stated the scale labels were not important in and of themselves.
To avoid misunderstanding, it is becoming more and more popular to use the term Likert-type to refer to a 5 or 7 point scale that have a rank order and are equivalent on either side (e.g., Very Important, Important, Neutral, Unimportant, Very Unimportant). Even this is a misuse of Likert's methodology, but it is a good compromise.
Lori Shelby, Ph.D., Founder & CEO
Introducing our New Blog Series on Getting Out the Vote!
For the next few weeks, our #MethodsMonday blog posts will be about voting in the United States and the methods behind the scenes.
What we won’t be discussing: Opinions on who to vote for or against, and considerations of personality, character, personal history, and/or having a presidential manner. Although these topics are of interest in the 2020 election, the purpose of this blog is to focus on methods topics of interest.
What we will be discussing: For our first week, we are covering some voting information basics in the United States. Week 2 we will be discussing the security methods our government uses to protect the vote, and for week 3 we will be reviewing the methods pollsters use to predict voting results.
Make a Plan to Vote
In 2020, it is important to make a plan to vote. Https://www.vote.org is your one stop location for information on voting, regardless of where you live or your political beliefs. You can confirm you are registered, get election reminders, find your polling place, etc. The website is easy to use and intuitive.
Where do the Candidates Stand on the Important Issues?
Although we certainly get information from watching debates, reading the news, and from social media, I find it helpful to have comparisons of the candidates on key issues from sources outside of their campaign websites.
Here are a couple that I found particularly useful:
The Shelby Global Team
Articles and news from the Shelby Global Team.