Data analytics doesn’t always have to be grueling numbers and math. It can also be effortlessly readable charts and graphs.

“Dashboards” are tools that help you create digestible charts and graphs from complicated stats. Unsurprisingly, they’re hugely popular with users.

For instance, as many as 97% prospective business intelligence (BI) software buyers rate dashboards and scorecards as their key requirements. If you talk to peers (in your industry and others), you’d find that dashboards’ desirability is veritably high across any software category that has anything to do with data analytics.

But don’t just go about buying any software that features a dashboard. Only those that have the right features and follow best practices will give you maximum benefits.

What is a dashboard?

A dashboard is a tool that provides visual representation of key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics. The information can be in the form of graphs, charts, or maps and with option for users to further drill down the data.

Dashboard in Tableau

Dashboard in Tableau (Source)

Key dashboard features to look out for

There are many things to look out for when building a dashboard. They need to be visually appealing and at the same time should support multiple data analysis results.

Some of the key features that’ll help you create stunning and extremely useful dashboards include:

Drill-down data by changing parameters (date, source, impact, etc.) as per the requirement.
Visual representation options
Choose the format—bar graphs, pie charts, sparklines, etc.—to reflect data analyses result.
Sharing options
Share dashboards via email as attachments or via URLs. Public URLs allow you to share a dashboard externally with clients or media.
Dashboard tabs
Organize your dashboard visuals under different tabs or buttons to help you avoid any clutter.
Embedded analytics
Embed a dashboard into your website, intranet, or software application.
Drag-and-drop tools
Create and modify dashboards with just a few clicks, and without any coding.
Get alerts via email or text message when key metrics change in the dashboard.
Predefined templates
Quickly design your dashboard from vendor-provided templates

Key benefits of dashboards

Dashboards are a great way to glean insights from raw business data without having to code personally. Some of the key benefits of using dashboards include:

  • Unified view of key business metrics: Dashboards provide a single pane visibility into all key business metrics. They serve as a central location for users to view and analyze up to date information.
  • Get real-time updates: Any change in the underlying data or values is reflected in dashboards immediately. This helps you to identify fluctuations in key business metrics as soon as they happen without having to wait for daily or weekly reports.
  • Saves time and effort: You no longer need to code or prepare lengthy reports to inform on your company’s or your team’s performance. Dashboards provide you with all the key values without having to code or analyze information separately.

Dashboard in Microsoft Power BI

Real-time data updates in Microsoft Power BI dashboard (Source)

Types of dashboards

Dashboards have become so useful that today most software solutions, be it BI, marketing, sales, or finance, feature dashboards. Based on functional use, dashboards can be broadly categorized as:

  • Operational dashboard: Operational dashboards reflect the ongoing processes of a business—they help monitor the dynamics of key metrics or KPIs. The data on operational dashboards get updated frequently.
  • Strategic dashboard: Strategic dashboards serve as reporting media that reflect the final status of a metric or KPI for a defined time period. The data on strategic dashboards are static for a given time period and are updated less frequently than operational dashboards.
  • Analytical dashboard: Analytical dashboard serve as quick visualization tools to identify trends and check historical performance. They are generally used by analysts and middle management to track how metrics have changed.

Zoho Project

Dashboard in Zoho Projects (Source)

Top 10 dashboards on GetApp

We’ve briefly compared the top 10 software solutions with dashboards below. These products received the highest average customer ratings on GetApp’s dashboard directory.

To learn more about them, please click on each product name.

Also, check out our Comparison Tool to evaluate different dashboard on features, pricing, integrations, and more.

Dashboard tool
Used for
What users say about it
Google Analytics
Web analytics, Marketing
  • Visually appealing and pulls data from multiple sources
  • Learning curve and set-up process is steep
Project management
  • Offers a variety of pre-defined dashboard templates
  • Can include more features such as timestamps
BI, sales, marketing, operational analytics
  • Intuitive, feature-rich, and multiple visualization options
Project management, marketing
  • Easy-to-set-up, customizable, and provides detailed drill-down options
BI, sales, marketing, operational analytics
  • Customizable, easy-to-use, and supports multiple visualization options
Website & mobile analytics
  • Simple and easy-to-use dashboard that supports visuals such as heatmaps
BI, sales, marketing, operational analytics
  • Flexible, pre-built dashboards and helpful customer support
  • Steep learning curve, difficult to drill-down data, and the app can get slow
BI, sales, marketing, operational analytics
  • Integrates with multiple data sources and is easily customizable
BI, sales, marketing, operational analytics
  • Great graphics and reports
  • Gets slow on some device types
Project management
  • Intuitive and collaborative dashboards, customizable, and easy-to-use

3 tips on how to dashboard successfully

Well-designed dashboards can improve your productivity and save time. Poorly designed and very heavy dashboards make it difficult to read the values and identify the right metrics.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when building your dashboard:

  • Choose the right metrics to display: Many users tend to add as many metrics as possible to the dashboard. This will clutter your dashboard, make it slow, and difficult to share. Choose the right and most needed metrics to be displayed on a dashboard. Use dashboard tabs or build separate ones if you must track many metrics.
  • Keep it simple: Simple dashboards are easier to read and help users digest the information faster. Do not add too many types of chart diagrams, colors, or fonts.
  • Make it interactive: Allow options to filter and drill-down data as per user requirements. This will help ensure maximum benefit for a broad range of users..

Based on internal analysis of interactions with over 1,600 interested buyers (from Jan. 1, 2016 to March 26, 2018)

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