Data purists may shun them. But users are just loving them. The dashboard in its new avatar is more user-friendly and definitely more appealing than its grim predecessor. From flat designs to interactive charts, let’s see the emerging trends in dashboard design in 2013.
1. Metro/modular layout
Popularized by Windows 8, the metro/modular layout draws its inspiration from the International design style (or the Swiss style) of the 1950s. Max Huber, Emil Ruder, Josef Müller-Brockman and Armin Hofman were the pioneers of this design style. This design style finds its application in arts, architecture, culture, and now even in web design. Key characteristics that mark this style of dashboard design are grid-based layout, good use of whitespace, more reliance on typography and simple, minimalistic graphics. In a dashboard, this design style works superbly well because it lays emphasis on the content and sees that the story is communicated in a clear and concise manner.
Expense Tracker’s tile-based metro layout
Fitbit’s metro layout with simple and minimalistic graphics
2. Charts that are intuitive and interactive
Data visualization using charts and graphs form an important part of any dashboard. They help bring out the crucial story in your data which could have otherwise been lost. Today’s dashboards are equipped with charts that have intuitive and interactive features.
Mint’s charts can be directly edited by a tap or drag option
MailChimp uses charts which can be zoomed in for a detailed view
MailChimp also provides users with checkboxes to select the data they want to see
Alternatively, Omron provides filters to select data
Most dashboards come equipped with features that allow individual charts or consolidated reports to be exported in various formats. This makes it easier for the user to use them in presentations or send them as attachments in emails.
Chart enabled with export in multiple formats feature
Google Analytics reports with export in multiple formats
3. Color trends
While traditionally, data purists would have stuck to 2-3 colors at the maximum, today’s dashboards are seeing a skillful use of a broader color palette. Blame it on the Swiss style of design which propagates the use of bold, bright colors or simply on the human mind’s love for the colorful, the 2013 dashboard is marked by various permutation and combination of colors. On the one hand, we have dashboards which use shades of gray as their core color with a few other colors as accents. On the other hand, there are dashboards with bold and uncommon color combinations. And somewhere in between, are the dashboards which use bright pastel colors against a muted background.
Viewabill’s light gray dashboard which uses a few color accents
Runner’s Studio’s bold colors in uncommon combinations
Toshl’s bright pastel colors against a muted background
4. Labeled icons for navigation
Icons are a designer’s preferred element when it comes to showing navigation and why shouldn’t it be! A small graphic can convey a lot more than an entire line of text. However, the trend is shifting more towards labeled icons for navigation―a small icon followed by a 1-2 word description. This ensures that new users are not left guessing the meaning of those icons/symbols. Remember Don’t make me think?
Google Analytics uses labeled icons in the lefthand side navigation panel
SproutSocial uses labeled icons in the header navigation
5. An upcoming trend: Mascots
Though we are not sure about the future of this trend, but brand mascots are gradually finding their way into dashboards too.
Be it Freddie of MailChimp or the Monsters of Toshl or the Financial Assistant of Expense Tracker, these mascots are changing the way we look at dashboards. Adding a dash of humor with their random banana talks (as it’s done in MailChimp) or sharing their pearls of wisdom (as in Toshl and Expense Tracker), will they be employed by other dashboards in future? Or, will they be discarded as yet another chartjunk? Time shall tell!
Freddie (MailChimp monkey) with his banana talks
Toshl Monsters giving some quick financial tips
Expense Tracker’s Financial Assistant asking us to cut down on our unnecessary expenditures (yeah..that beer!)
Know of any other dashboard trends that we have missed out here? Add them in the comment section below.
If you liked this post, do check out the next in this two-part series: