Key Features and Elements of a Dashboard

In the previous articles, you learned about the benefits and challenges that come with adopting dashboard and reporting software. Now let’s take a look at the actual features and elements that comprise dashboard design by examping a typical piece of business intelligence (BI) software.

Dashboards come in different shapes and sizes. Some offer a minimalist’s approach to data consolidation, while others report as much data as possible. We’ll cover the pros and cons of individual dashboard software later in this series. For now, let’s take a look at the most common and effective features that you’ll utilize in your dashboard.

KPI Dashboard Features and Elements

To fight data sprawl, you’ll want most—if not all—of these features in your next dashboard.

KPI Dashboard Measuring

Dashboards provide the most value when they measure your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). The difference between regular data and a KPI is that KPIs lead to action, whereas generic data (such as the number of daily visitors) can’t be acted on in a meaningful way.

KPIs help you monitor the most valuable assets and expenses in your organization. They allow you to observe your team’s progression towards a specific goal, whether it be sales, marketing or production. And they enable you to make informed management decisions using historical trends and metrics.


Dashboards visualize your data in a manner of ways. Colorful charts and eye-catching tables help convey important metrics quickly and attractively. Data that has been converted into a visual chart or graph is faster and easier to comprehend.

A good KPI dashboard will have a variety of chart options to choose from. Whether you want to divide your data in a pie chart, observe growth using a stacked column, or display productivity on a line graph, dashboard software will convert your metrics into the appropriate visualization.

Real-time Data Processing

In order to remain relevant, the data reflected in a well-designed dashboard needs to be processed in real-time. Quick data processing is a feature that ensures your data is timely and accurate. While it may never reflect certain changes within seconds after they occur, dashboard software is constantly evolving to meet the demands of modern business.

Global Filters

More often than not, dashboards present multiple graphs and charts on a single page. This enables you to measure your most important KPIs from a central hub. However, let’s say you want to adjust a date range, observe the performance of a specific department or track the progress of a recent shipment. Filtering each chart and visual would be time consuming.

Good BI software will integrate global dashboard filters into its design. With just a few clicks, you can easily make adjustments that affect the data displayed throughout your dashboard. Better yet, you can often save your customized filters, so you or another viewer can snap to a saved metric at anytime.

Global Style Options

On the same token as global filters, global style options enable you to change the appearance of your dashboard elements without having to create an entirely new visualization. Not only can you swap a specific chart in or out, but you can change the font, color, background and border of any visual.

This is an important feature to have, as it allows you to customize and brand your data according to the goals of your organization. Global style options also help you tell a better story, shaping the design of your data in a way that’s attractive and appealing.

Embedded Objects

The best dashboard designs enable you to embed objects directly into the KPI dashboard itself. That means when you share reports with stakeholders, rather than seeing the logo of the dashboard itself, you can place your company’s logo on the dashboard instead. Sometimes you can customize the specific colors and themes of a dashboard to better suit the unified image you’re trying to achieve.

24/7 Access

Your data and analytics can be available to you at anytime of day, from any any type of device. Most cloud-based dashboard software can be accessed from a computer, smartphone or tablet. Some dashboards may not offer mobile support yet, but many are adopting this feature in the event it becomes an industry standard.

Sharing Options

Sharing the data and reports from your dashboard helps cultivate a data-driven environment in your organization. Good KPI dashboard software often includes numerous options for sharing data quickly with your team. This can be done via logging into a dashboard from another device, sending visualizations and reports by email, or using an external viewer.

KPI Dashboard Tabs

While the goal of any dashboard software is to give its users an at-a-glance observation of their data, sometimes that can lead to information overload. Dashboard tabs are a useful feature for when there’s too much data to display on a single page. With tabs, you can have separate dashboards related to traffic, marketing, social media and more. Rather than trying to gleam connections from a single dashboard, you can flip through organized tabs to easily find relevant data.

Dynamic Images

The same importance that’s placed on visualizing data can be applied to other information as well. Some dashboards enable dynamic images—a feature that allows you to display images according to the information that’s being presented. For instance, if you want to show the best selling products of any given month, you can tag an image of a product to its corresponding data. This image will now be dynamic in the sense that it will appear (or hide) based on how you filter your data.

Printing Bounds

You might need to print the information on a dashboard for physical reference. In those cases, printing bounds helps you format a KPI dashboard to be exported. Your dashboard can then be transformed into a PDF or PNG file without disrupting the visualizations. This makes presentations a breeze, as you can hand out printed copies of the dashboard while going over the virtual version on a projector or monitor.

Next up: The Types of Dashboard Software Architecture

Should you choose on-premise or cloud-based software? What’s the difference, and does it matter? In this article, we explain the different types of software architecture and the pros and cons that come with each one.

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