Yes, I know that good information visualization practice and dashboard design calls for effective use of screen real estate with clear and simple devices such as sparklines and bullet graphs. Easy to read and interpret, these charts, combined with a monotone color scheme (after all, we have to keep the mind on the data and use color sparingly to call attention to the errant metric and the wayward KPI!), have become a “best practice” design for data-heavy business dashboards.
Take a look at this sparkline dashboard (designed by Stephen Few and featured in his book Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data and implemented by Andreas Lipphardt of BonaVista – see “An Excel-based IT Dashboard) and you’ll recognize “the look”.
And see also the sales dashboard (also designed by Few and discussed in his book – this version implemented by Robert Allison using SAS/GRAPH).
Yes, these information dashboards are packed with great data visualizations and make effective use of the dashboard layout. Gratituitous graphics are minimized. Utility and user understanding of the meaning of the information is maximized.
But, heck, don’t you ever get tired of the flatness and just sometimes want to ogle a shiny, big-ass 3D gauge like this one?
In the mood for some more in this vein? Here are some more digital instrumentation/gauge style dashboard interface elements:
(see more dashboard dials, gauges and charts for .Net from Perpetuumsoft)
The question is when to choose what level of eye candy for dashboards. Is it always “wrong” to go with the shiny gizmo? How about when the project sponsor says “Make the gauges bigger”?
Is the answer to take a blended approach as Dundas does in this HR metrics dashboard? Does this strike the proper balance?
Update: The comments posted regarding balancing eye candy with information visualization best practices set me off on a search for a product that I saw a while back. Click on the more link to see what I found: