What results do you want to show in your Excel dashboard?
What should readers take away from it?
These five design tips will help you showcase your data clearly and directly.
Scroll down for the video.
Learn how to create this interactive Excel report in the upcoming ‘Visually Effective Excel Dashboards’ Course.
1. Create emphasis
Add a strong contrast to headings to show at a glance the KPIs on display in your dashboard.
Contrast on the heading: Actual Revenue VS. Budget
A subtle contrast on alternating table rows visually separates them, improving readability.
Subtle contrast on the table rows
2. Connect different elements
Show relationships with alignment.
For example, here we’ve aligned the ΔPY to a centre line. For an increase, it’s shown to the right of the centre line. For a decrease, to the left.
ΔPY aligned left of the centre line for decrease and right of the line for increase.
Using this layout trick and colour on these bars makes this more readable and more quantifiable, as we count shapes easier from distance.
Legible from a distance: performance.
Numbers in a table should be right aligned in their cell so you can immediately tell larger or smaller numbers apart. The convention is to align numbers to the right. Generally, text is left-aligned.
Headers can be an exception to this, based on preference.
Numbers should be right-aligned. The header is centre-aligned here.
3. Draw parallels and create associations
Two things that should be repeated consistently in your dashboard are abbreviations and color usage.
The common visual shorthand of a down red arrow and green up arrow is repeated in this table, each time positioned next to a -% or +%.
Using arrow icons in addition to colour increases legibility from distance of this data.
From afar, the viewer can visually differentiate high performing or low performing companies, before going up close to examine details.
4. Organise content and create focal points
Think about proximity. What will you choose to group or separate?
This example shows %ΔPY grouped with its visual (a conditionally-formatted bar chart), to imply they are connected.
Metric and visual grouped together
White space separates this set from %ΔB and its visual.
This use of proximity helps clarity and adds visual punctuation in what would otherwise be a densely-packed table.
5. Balance large elements with smaller elements
In this dashboard, the large table on top is balanced with 2 mid-sized charts below it. The borders are also aligned.
This balance unifies the different elements and reinforces their interconnectedness.