Dashboards have evolved a lot since their inception. From interfaces requiring you to be a wizard, to today’s simple, sleek designs, a lot has changed in the way users interact and make sense of the data in them. We covered 5 emerging dashboard design trends in the first part of this article. From metro layout-based dashboards, interactive charts and innovative color palettes to labeled icons for navigation and mascots, the dashboards of 2013 are setting new paradigms in usability and interaction design. In this second and last part, we’ll have a look into 5 more trends that are defining dashboard designs in 2013.
With smartphones and tablets becoming popular, we are seeing an emerging trend of responsive dashboard layouts. The basic idea behind such a layout is that, it provides an optimal viewing experience across all devices and browsers with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling.
Fitbit’s responsive dashboard layout renders equally well across all devices and browsers.
Image credit: fitbit.com
Use of sparklines and other word-sized charts
Sparklines, a brainchild of Edward Tufte, are “data-intense, design-simple, word-sized graphics” that provide a quick sense of historical context to enrich the meaning of the measure. Sparklines take up less space and saves you from the limited dashboard real estate dilemma. Yet, they are a powerful construct to disseminate instant information.
Google Analytics uses sparklines to summarize the variation in metrics like Visits, Pageviews, Avg. Visit Duration, etc. Users get an overall picture in a single screen and have the option to drill down for more details.
Image credit: google.com/analytics
SproutSocial uses color coded sparklines to visualize the variation in metrics like New Twitter Followers, New Facebook Fans, Incoming Messages, etc.
Image credit: sproutsocial.com
Newer ways of adding context to data
Not only are dashboards using sparkcharts but also employing multiple other ways to provide context and relevancy to its users. Only data that is placed in its right context is useful and today’s users understand this well.
Nike+ Fuelband uses trendlines to help users map their performance against a set goal.
Image credit: sanfitness.info
Stock Market HD: Stocks & Shares uses a newsfeed to inform users about the latest news regarding a particular stock. It helps them take more informed decisions.
Image credit: razorianfly.com
Use of tag bubble and tag cloud
While this design element may be considered passé by some, tag bubbles and tag clouds are gradually finding their use in the dashboards of 2013.
Toshl, a personal finance and expense tracking app, uses a multi-color tag bubble to visualize the various heads under which you spend your hard earned money.
Image credit: wp7connect.com
The Webtrends dashboard uses the tag cloud to visualize the trending topics in the blog.
Image credit: thisisthebrigade.com
Thanks to technology, it’s much easier now to get real-time updates on your dashboard directly. Though real-time information is not essential for a lot of tasks but for functions like Web Traffic Monitoring during an A/B test or in a Stock Ticker app, real-time information can go a long way in deciding the winners from the losers.
Google Analytics’ real-time reports help you understand what is happening on your website right now.
Image credit: analytics.blogspot.in
Stocks-Realtime Stock Quotes help you analyze real-time share prices.
Image credit: play.google.com
Got enough food for thought for your next dashboard design project! A word of caution here though: do not follow any of these trends blindly. Understand your end user and his requirements first and then decide accordingly. Remember, a good design should always solve a problem and not create one!
P.S: This trend list is not exhaustive and if you have something to add (maybe some thoughts on dashboard typography or chart selection), please use the comment section below.
Till next time… Cheers!