March 4

Low Adoption? Introducing The Dashboard Overview Tab

Introduction to the Dashboard Overview Tab

The Dashboard Overview Tab acts as the dashboard’s table of contents, offering a clear, brief overview of its functions and value and directing users to essential tools and guides, ensuring they can fully utilize and understand the dashboard, no matter their level of data literacy.

A common issue prevalent in business intelligence and analytics is the technical knowledge gap between dashboard developers and dashboard users. The developer tends to be overly optimistic about what the end user knows and their level of data literacy. The value of the dashboard may seem obvious and readily apparent. But, for the novice dashboard user, it can be anything but obvious. Indeed, they may wonder where to start, why they should spend their time in the dashboard, and what possible value they can derive from it.

That is before any detail about data sources, how often the dashboard is updated, and how to find answers to their questions. Unfortunately, building the dashboard is just part of the journey. To ensure adoption, the end user must fully appreciate how to leverage it and what it can mean to their role.

The Purpose of the Dashboard Overview Tab

The dashboard overview tab is like the landing page of a website. It should help orient the visitor in understanding the landscape in front of them. All training, context, and navigation should be available. Most users will only seek out training when they feel like they need it, i.e., they will not sit through a 60-minute video on how to use the dashboard before they get into it. What is more likely is they will go straight into the dashboard and try to figure it out from there. The dashboard overview tab needs to facilitate this behavior. Depending on the dashboard, it should be able to address some or all of the below:

  • Orient first-time dashboard users
  • Clarify what the dashboard is about and why it exists
  • Identify who the dashboard is for
  • Provide necessary “just in time” training
  • List the data sources and refresh details
  • Access to support and feedback

The dashboard overview tab is vital for new users. Over time, it becomes less important as people become more familiar with the dashboard. It has served its purpose. However, it can have long-term value, and the purpose of it can evolve, with more emphasis placed on what has changed for new versions of the dashboard and what future updates are coming. 

While some people will be comfortable with a new dashboard and will breeze through it, others may struggle. Unless known otherwise, it is preferable to design for the lowest common denominator of data literacy amongst the audience.

A new dashboard introduces change, and change needs to be managed. Just landing a dashboard before a new user will rarely end well. One approach to manage this change is in the form of the dashboard overview tab.

Key Components of the Dashboard Overview Tab

Several factors play into the level of detail a dashboard overview tab needs. These include the target number of end users and the complexity of the dashboard itself. Generally, the larger the user base, the more effort must go into the overview tab. 

To illustrate the approach, we will look at a dashboard for our usual fictional company BlockDuster Video, and their Executive Insights dashboard.

The Dashboard Summary

The Dashboard Overview Tab - Dashboard Overview Description

This is a paragraph or two that describes the purpose of the dashboard. It assumes zero knowledge of what the dashboard is and should be the first thing a new user reads on this tab. As such, it should make it clear what the dashboard is about; like the blurb of a book, the reader knows what to expect from it.

Since it occupies the top left of the screen, primary real estate, care must be taken to ensure it reads well and has a good “hook” to entice the audience to want to learn more.

The Target Audience

The Dashboard Overview Tab - Target audience and personas

An effective dashboard must be directed towards a specific audience or persona(s). Take my free training Rapid Requirements Gathering to quickly get up to speed on the design approach for specific personas. 

Make it clear who the intended audience is by role. Remember the rule of dashboard persona design: “If you design for everyone, you design for no one”. If anything, be more restrictive in the target personas. This serves multiple functions:

  • It allows the dashboard to be targeted and address specific business cases;
  • It limits the number of tabs that will be needed and hence has an impact on performance;
  • Clarifying who it is NOT for makes it easier to say no to additional scope and functional requests.

Questions the Dashboard Answers

The Dashboard Overview Tab - Questions the dashboard answers

Dashboards can be quite technical. The overview tab should abstract that complexity and one way to do that is to distill the detail into natural language questions that the intended audience can easily understand. 

Within a few seconds, the audience can understand the high-level value they will get from accessing the dashboard and what it means to them. Aim to keep it to five or fewer questions; too much detail could be off-putting.

Dashboard Wireframe Kit

Data Sources and Data Refresh

The Dashboard Overview Tab - Data sources and data refresh

Where the data comes from is vital to enhance trust and transparency. This is especially true if the data sources are known by the end users already and have been vetted and validated. This can cut both ways however, if the data sources have had accuracy issues, care should be taken.

Part of this equation is how often the data in the dashboard is refreshed. While we would all like a live feed, maybe only daily or weekly updates are viable or appropriate, depending on the dashboard. It should be clear when the users can expect the data to be refreshed.

Training and Additional Resources

The Dashboard Overview Tab - Dashboard links and resources

There is only so much space available on the dashboard overview tab. Having an area for links can make it easier to maintain training and other resources in separate locations like shared drives and documents. While not exhaustive, this is what might be considered for inclusion for additional resources:

  • Training: Access to more formal training documentation on the dashboard, if needed. This could be in the form of a Google Doc or other easily maintained document.
  • Glossary of Terms: A resource that defines technical terms, definitions, and metrics calculations, where necessary. 
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Many support questions can be preemptively addressed with a FAQ section. Again, this could be as simple as a Google Doc link from the dashboard.
  • Help and Support: There may be situations where someone needs assistance, is locked out, or has a question not answered in the FAQ. Providing an email for support can cater to those scenarios.
  • Report a Bug or Problem: This could be a link to a form, or an email address, to allow users to log any issues they find or data inaccuracies. 
  • Request Access: If someone likes what they see, but don’t have access, providing an easy means to request it makes life easier and reduces friction.

Short Training Video

The Dashboard Overview Tab - Quick start video

Most people won’t consume long training videos or read pages of training documentation. However, many will entertain short, bite-sized videos. This video should be a simple walk-through of the dashboard, the key features such as the overall layout, how to navigate, how the filters work, and the flow of the KPIs and charts. 

The goal is to keep it under 5 minutes in your dashboard overview tab. Yes, that is not enough time to do a detailed walk-through, but 5 minutes is better than the audience just skipping the video because it is too long. Longer videos can be in the training link; this short video is to entice those who will only consume short amounts of content.

Optional Extras in the Dashboard Overview Tab

The above details should be standard fare for a dashboard overview tab, but there can be occasions to consider other elements that can add more impact and increase adoption and the reuse value of the overview tab.

Usage Metrics

The Dashboard Overview Tab - Dashboard usage metrics

When adoption is a key metric for a dashboard, having usage metrics can help drive engagement and accountability. It can be risky, but there can also be great value in making these numbers visible, especially if there is a target adoption percentage and it has executive backing.

Upcoming Features

The Dashboard Overview Tab - Next features

Letting users know what will be coming in future releases gives them transparency into the roadmap for the dashboard and gives them a reason to be excited. The dashboard overview tab also indicates that the dashboard is actively being improved. Of course, the promises must be carried through; otherwise, trust will be eroded.

Dashboard Overview Tab Conclusion

Increasing dashboard usage goes beyond dashboard development. It requires an appreciation for change management, user experience, and user interface design. Above all, it demands an understanding of the end users, what they care about, and how the dashboard can help them. Knowing this, an effective dashboard overview tab can convey the value of the dashboard to them and help them extract that value from interacting with the dashboard.



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