In this article, we will walk through some core elements of dashboard design, simple guidelines for selecting a dashboard background and four royalty-free background images that will turn any dashboard into a more attractive and effective user interface. We’ll focus on creating these for Domo dashboards, but this can be applied to any dashboard report (e.g. tableau dashboard design, power bi dashboard design etc).
Why a dashboard background?
Selecting a dashboard background design is often an important, but last task to complete before a dashboard is ready for release to end-users. Running low on time at the end of a project, developers frequently rush this task, not giving it appropriate time and thought, in order to meet deadlines and deliverables. Here, we will look at a few steps to make your dashboard design intentional, choosing a background that will work in concert with your analytics content to help drive understanding.
Key elements of dashboard design
The first principle to consider is simplicity. For example, having a large dashboard logo in the background or a picture on the dashboard is usually not advisable as it clutters the view. Regardless of the metrics and data, it is best to design a dashboard as simply as possible while still delivering the required analytics. Simplicity does not mean that it should be plain and boring, rather it means that the background and design need to serve to enhance the experience of the users. The logo and background image cannot be there just for the sake of it or it can deter from the overall story, causing the user to be distracted and miss the critical elements of the information being shared.
The meaning of the dashboard content also needs to be easy for end-users to quickly grasp. For example, keep in mind that users tend to think chronologically, and in English, they read left to right. These habits do not change when they are interacting with a dashboard. Though it may feel like many dashboards end up having a similar overall structure, that structure should exist to support understanding.
As an example of this structure in practice, business users have an easier time progressing through a dashboard when the filters are at the top and when they increase in granularity from left to right, with the highest level of the hierarchy on the left. They tend to follow the flow when aggregated month-to-date and year-to-date metrics are at the top of the page, above or followed by metrics with more detailed information. These are just two examples of structures that can help maximize user benefit from the dashboard.
Dashboard logo design and placement
A dashboard logo for a company or organization is typically located in the upper left corner of the dashboard. It can be located elsewhere, in the bottom right for example, but regardless of location we recommend making it small and it should not detract from the purpose of the dashboard itself- to convey a story through data.
Simple guidelines for dashboard images and dashboard background colors
For the background, the optimal color(s) will work to enhance the metrics on the page. The color choice can make the metrics stand out and can make it easier for the business user to focus on the important ones. Lighter backgrounds can drive flexibility for the overall color palette of text and symbols on the dashboard, while darker backgrounds can be more dramatic and bold, and can look more elegant if used with less overall colors on the dashboard. There are many dashboard color theme tools that can help you select a color palette, showing you how the colors go together and while also providing the hex color code.
The examples below show the dramatic impact a background color can have on a user’s ability to quickly differentiate between metrics on a page.
For a dashboard image, there are many more directions one can go. Depending on your companies brand kit, there may be company guidlines that are required for a dashboard logo and background. However, the best background for dashboards are simple- with only one to two colors that are detailed enough that users can easily distinguish when metrics are overlayed on top, yet subtle enough that it is not distracting to the user. But keep in mind, a color dashboard or a clutter of bis not always the answer. In his seminal book Information Dashboard Design, author Stephen Few argues that color and random dashboard pictures are frequently a significant distraction to telling the data story
Dashboard color schemes (a.k.a. best dashboard colors)
If designing a background image, it’s best to combine the general rules above for both color and design. The color pallet of the image should evoke the feeling for the end-user that you want to convey. Generally, light colors evoke calm and neutral while dark colors evoke urgency and sophistication. Beyond light and dark, keep in mind how specific colors are perceived in your region or culture. Here is a dashboard color palette showing how colors are generally perceived, at least in the United States.
The design of the a background image should be interesting and detailed enough to add a level of interest and curiosity to the dashboard, but not so large or busy that it will be distracting. The layout of the metrics or cards on the dashboard is also an important factor in the design. If the metrics are overlayed in a way that you won’t see the background image very much, make sure that the parts of the design that show do not seem out of place. If you will see the background image around the cards, then a subtle pattern can enhance the user’s view.
Download royalty-free dashboard background images below
If your company does not have a graphic designer, you may feel limited to either a company logo or a solid color for a background. Company logos as a background do not typically work well and yet a solid color can at times seem boring or unsophisticated. Here we have provided four royalty-free background images with subtle patterns that can be downloaded for use. The color palettes and design are neutral, allowing these to be used for many different dashboards.
These files are the optimal size for a typical Domo dashboard.
A dashboard background design should be effective at both evoking the feeling you want the business users to have as well as guiding them through interacting with and understanding the key information from the metrics. Remember to be intentional with not only the background but also the rest of the color palette or dashboard color theme on the dashboard, using the colors and metrics together to signal to the user what they should focus on. Following the simple guidelines we outlined, the background and design will elevate your analytics for end-users.
Graphable delivers insightful graph database (e.g. Neo4j consulting) / machine learning (ml) / natural language processing (nlp) projects as well as graph and Domo consulting for BI/analytics, with measurable impact. We are known for operating ethically, communicating well, and delivering on-time. With hundreds of successful projects across most industries, we thrive in the most challenging data integration and data science contexts, driving analytics success.
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