5 Design Tips for Better Excel Dashboards

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.

excel dashboard kpi template

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.

excel dashboards reports template

Contrast on the heading: Actual Revenue VS. Budget

A subtle contrast on alternating table rows visually separates them, improving readability.

excel templates reports dashboards

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.

excel dashboards template reports

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.

excel templates reports dashboards

Legible from a distance: performance.

Table Alignment

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.

excel template dashboard report

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 +%.

excel dashboard report template

Using arrow icons in addition to colour increases legibility from distance of this data.

excel templates reports dashboardsFrom 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.

excel template dashboard reports

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.

excel report template dashboardThis balance unifies the different elements and reinforces their interconnectedness.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Adrian atkin May 15, 2017 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Leila

    Do you have any courses / videos for creating gannt charts.
    Love your tips…..!

    • Leila Gharani May 25, 2017 at 11:45 am - Reply

      Hi Adrian,
      I have a free gantt chart template you can download from the freebies tab – I don’t have a tutorial / course on that one. It would be good idea actually to provide different templates and have videos showing how these can be designed from scratch…
      Glad you like the tips :)

  2. Marcelo Simarosti May 23, 2017 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Ansioso pelo curso

    • Leila Gharani May 25, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply

      Thanks. I am also looking forward :)

  3. Davis May 25, 2017 at 1:51 am - Reply

    I’m a BI developer – and I have to say your videos are amazing and they are very easy to understand. You’re showing things in Excel that I didn’t know were possible.

    • Leila Gharani May 25, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply

      Thanks Davis. Very glad to hear that!

  4. Sri May 27, 2017 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Hi,

    can i download example excel for get idea.

    • Leila Gharani June 1, 2017 at 9:54 am - Reply

      Hi Sri – You can download the template from inside the Excel Dashboard course.

  5. Hussein May 30, 2017 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Hi Leila

    Thanks a lot for your videos . it is very helpful
    Could you please help me with my following case :
    I have one table containing my products picture ( every product have 3 pictures )
    I want to display these pictures on another sheet by selecting the product ID from drop-down list in the same new sheet

    I tried with index formula and define a Name for the formula and link the picture with the new Names ( The formula work but the picture is displayed in mixing and wrong way )
    Any video or advise to help me with that ?

    Thanks in advance

    • Leila Gharani June 1, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Hi Hussein – here, the indirect function, together with name manager work great. I have a video on this, inside my online Excel dashboard course – where I have three logos and depending on the company selection, the respective logo is shown – If you’re in the course check you’ll find it in the last lectures. If not, I’ll try to put up a video on this in YouTube sometime in the next months.

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