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Pablum Dashboard Examples
Too many dashboards are designed to
spoon-feed their readers
just a few facts at a time. Here are a few examples.
by Charley Kyd
of the people who design business dashboards act like they were trained
by the friendly folks at the Pablum Software Company.
They assume that their audience has a low IQ, poor vision, and a short
attention span. So they dumb-down the data.
"Don't worry your fuzzy little brain about complicated things like
facts," these dashboards seem to say. "If our few
numbers confuse you, just look at the bright colors and pretty
We show several examples of these pablum dashboards below. By showing these
dashboards, we aren't intending to pick on either of the organizations
involved. Sad to say, it's easier to find bad examples than good ones.
The VDOT site found at the link above apparently shows the actual
status of the department's performance. Below, they take up a whole screen to display what amounts
to seven numbers, along with a tiny map.
When you click on any of the gauges at the
VDOT site, you get another spoon-full
of facts. Here's what we got when we clicked on Construction:
Good dashboards explain more than facts about a particular instant in
time. They describe how performance has been trending. But the VDOT dashboards provide
no trends at all...and very few facts.
The last time we tested Xcelsius software, it could display 30 charts
on a page. But their dashboard designers must believe that they're in competition with the
folks at Pablum.
To illustrate, the table below shows eight figures found in the page
of samples from the Xcelsius link above. The figures are too small to
read, but it's easy to tell that not many facts are in play.
In contrast, the advertisement at the right above shows a variety of
dashboard reports. Each of these reports shows about the same number of facts -- in an
easy-to-read format -- as all eight of the screen displays below.
Notice that many figures on this page use gauges and the always-popular
but seldom-useful pie charts. Both of these types of displays take a
great deal of space on your screen, or printed page, to provide
virtually no facts.
What's the alternative? Down With Gauges!
provides one alternative for gauges. And bar charts provide a good
alternative to pie charts.
Our stamp dashboard presents 110 Excel
charts on one printed page. Each chart displays 13 numbers. The
dashboard also includes 220 numeric measures. If Excel users can display
that much information clearly in Excel -- for free -- the least that
"real" dashboard software can do is to give us at least one-tenth that
amount of information in their expensive products.
Otherwise, "pablum" overstates their products' capabilities.