Projects Dashboard

3 Secrets to Great Dashboards

How to Engage End Users When Technology Disrupts the Status Quo

By Chris Pantaenius

Rolling out new technology solutions is always challenging, no matter how much training or user acceptance testing you conduct. Whether you’re implementing a new vendor assessment tool, legal ticketing system or contract management process, you’ll always have diverse end-user attitudes that are difficult to account for until users interact with your solution “in the wild.”

You’ll typically have a group of enthusiastic users who are excited about adopting a better, smarter tool. But you’ll also find a handful of folks whose attitude about your new solution could best be described as “meh.” There may even be a few resisters—those who believe spreadsheets, email, phone calls and endless meetings will forever be the best way to get things done.

So how do you account for varying attitudes (not to mention diversity in technical aptitude) when rolling out new solutions? How do you get people on board and break down barriers to user adoption? At Onspring, we believe that one secret lies in the use of effective end-user dashboards.

Dashboards are the front door to your solution. They are your greeter, your concierge and your window dressing. Practically speaking, dashboards contain information that users need to complete their work as quickly and painlessly as possible. After all, no one wants to dig for data. No one enjoys thrashing around, trying to figure out what needs their attention. They want consolidated information at their fingertips, and your dashboards can deliver.

When it comes to configuring an effective dashboard, we recommend three simple guidelines:

1. Make It Actionable

Dashboards should present the most relevant links and information at the top so users can get in, get out and move on. For example:

  • Present alerts and work queues front and center so users can immediately access content that requires their attention.
  • Include links to frequent tasks (like time entry) or self-serve training resources (job aids, videos and guides).
  • Make sure information is updated in real-time. There’s nothing more frustrating to users than sifting through dated information or not being able to locate content they know should be there.
  • Always give users the ability to click into reports or charts to see underlying details. They may not want the details, but if they do, don’t make them hunt around. Focus on providing information users need most often.

Too many dashboards waste valuable real estate on informational reports that don’t help users accomplish their goals. Keep your dashboards actionable and goal-oriented, and your users will thank you for it.

2. Make It Personal

If your solution involves two or more personas (for example, staff, managers, executive approvers, etc.), it’s essential to personalize your dashboard content. Users should see only information that pertains to their role. It’s tempting to think, “My users will be interested in all these reports!” But in reality, users just want to know what needs their attention at that specific point in time. Everything else is noise.

Platform technologies like Onspring give you the ability to tailor dashboard content to individual user needs. For example:

  • Include a “My Work Queue” report that contains tasks or content assigned to the current user. When John logs in, he sees only his content in the report. When Susan logs in, she sees only hers.
  • Enable users to create their own personal reports so they can easily find content that’s important to them. (If you’re using access controls smartly, you’ll never have to worry about users viewing information they shouldn’t see.)
  • If users have wildly different priorities and needs based on their persona, create separate role-based dashboards and assign users to the content they care about.

Personalization gives users a sense of ownership and control. The dashboard becomes their home base. If your dashboards are one-size-fits-all, chances are they’re really “one-size-fits-no-one.”

3. Make It Beautiful

Aesthetics matter. If your dashboards contain all the information users would ever need but the presentation is sloppy or confusing, you’ll lose your users at “hello.” Follow these simple design principles:

  • Less Is More: Don’t try to cram in every detail onto a dashboard. Present information users need at a glance, and give them the ability to click through for more details.
  • Paint a Picture: Sure, you could display a whopper report on vendors by criticality or audit workpapers by status, but most users don’t want to scroll through that data. Instead, present the information in a pie or bar chart so users can jump right to the details they need. Graphical reports are colorful, easy on the eyes and often more usable than traditional tables.
  • Avoid Death by Scrolling: Resist the temptation to display every report a user could possibly want on a dashboard. The reality is, users will rarely see the stuff at the bottom, so don’t waste time putting it there. Present the top-level reports your users really need, and give them easy access to secondary information via links, buttons or other navigation tools.

A well-designed dashboard can have a huge impact on end-user adoption, so don’t let it be an afterthought. Even your most resistant users can be won over with an elegant dashboard that’s personalized and actionable.

Need help with dashboard design? Onspring is here for you. Contact us for expert guidance and support.

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