What is a dashboard? A complete overview (2024)

In this day and age, understanding data is the key to making the best decisions for any business. However, the amount of information that’s available at any time can be overwhelming for the most data-savvy person.

So what’s the key to making data-driven decisions? Finding the most important data and formatting it in a way that’s easy to understand. This can change, depending on who will view the data. If you’re an industry expert, you may find complex data easier to understand. If you’re presenting data to less well-versed stakeholders at your company, you may need to simplify it before sharing it with others.

One of the easiest ways to make data easy to understand for technical and non-technical audiences is to create a dashboard that easily displays all of your data visualizations in one place.

In this article, we will run through:

  • Dashboard definition
  • How dashboards work
  • Uses
  • Importance
  • How to create a dashboard
  • Types of dashboards
  • Best practices
  • Benefits

Dashboard definition

A dashboard is a way of displaying various types of visual data in one place. Usually, a dashboard is intended to convey different, but related information in an easy-to-digest form. And oftentimes, this includes things like key performance indicators (KPI)s or other important business metrics that stakeholders need to see and understand at a glance.

Dashboards are useful across different industries and verticals because they’re highly customizable. They can include data of all sorts with varying date ranges to help you understand: what happened, why it happened, what may happen, and what action you should take. And since dashboards use visualizations like tables, graphs, and charts, others who aren’t as close to the data can quickly and easily understand the story it tells or the insights it reveals.

Data dashboards versus reports

Both dashboards and reports are commonly utilized to collect and analyze data. So what makes them different?

Broadly speaking, reports usually have a more narrow focus. They serve the purpose of providing a deep-dive view into a data set and tend to concentrate on a single item or event.

On the other hand, dashboards tend to have a high-level view of broad amounts of data and are created to answer a single question. That question can be broad, such as, “how was our site performance last month?” Or more specific, such as, “how many units did we sell?” Or perhaps something that’s a little harder to track without specialized expertise, such as, “is our overall efficiency improving?”

Data dashboards versus data visualizations

Two common terms when it comes to analytics and reporting are “data dashboard” and “data visualization.” What’s the difference?

Data visualization is a way of presenting data in a visual form to make it easier to understand and analyze.

Data dashboards are a summary of different, but related data sets, presented in a way that makes the related information easier to understand. Dashboards are a type of data visualization, and often use common visualization tools such as graphs, charts, and tables.

How do dashboards work?

Dashboards take data from different sources and aggregate it so non-technical people can more easily read and interpret it. With interactive elements, it helps anyone using the dashboard better understand certain points, explore areas of increased interest, and support more questioning to arrive at key insights or make key decisions.

Dashboard uses

The main use of a dashboard is to show a comprehensive overview of data from different sources. Dashboards are useful for monitoring, measuring, and analyzing relevant data in key areas. They take raw data from many sources and clearly present it in a way that’s highly tailored to the viewer’s needs—whether you’re a business leader, line of business analyst, sales representative, marketer, and more.

Use dashboards to measure things like:

  • Customer metrics
  • Financial information
  • Sales information
  • Web analytics
  • Manufacturing information
  • Human resources data
  • Marketing performance
  • Logistics information

Since dashboards are useful aggregation and visualization tools, they’re highly versatile—used by professionals to analyze complex data or subject matter experts to track or present data to non-subject matter experts. Use them in your presentations to executives or other key stakeholders to help them understand challenges, opportunities, where to grow and make changes.

The importance of dashboards

Dashboards are important because they provide a platform for people to make better, more informed, data-driven decisions. Since they’re dynamic, interactive, and show near real-time data, they help you get a more precise, in-the-moment understanding of what’s happening in the world around you and navigate rapid, sometimes difficult changes.

How to create a data dashboard

There are many different solutions to help you build dashboards: Tableau, Excel, or Google Sheets. But at a basic level, here are important steps to help you build a dashboard:

  1. Define your audience and goals: Ask who you are building this dashboard for and what do they need to understand? Once you know that, you can answer their questions more easily with selected visualizations and data.
  2. Choose your data: Most businesses have an abundance of data from different sources. Choose only what’s relevant to your audience and goal to avoid overwhelming your audience with information.
  3. Double-check your data: Always make sure your data is clean and correct before building a dashboard. The last thing you want is to realize in several months that your data was wrong the entire time.
  4. Choose your visualizations: There are many different types of visualizations to use, such as charts, graphs, maps, etc. Choose the best one to represent your data. For example, bar and pie charts can quickly become overwhelming when they include too much information.
  5. Use a template: When building a dashboard for the first time, use a template or intuitive software to save time and headaches. Carefully choose the best one for your project and don’t try to shoehorn data into a template that doesn’t work.
  6. Keep it simple: Use similar colors and styles so your dashboard doesn’t become cluttered and overwhelming.
  7. Iterate and improve: Once your dashboard is in a good place, ask for feedback from a specific person in your core audience. Find out if it makes sense to them and answers their questions. Take that feedback to heart and make improvements for better adoption and understanding.

Create beautiful visualizations with your data.

Try Tableau for free

What is a dashboard? A complete overview (1)

Types of dashboards

Because dashboards are customizable, it’s hard to categorize them into distinct types. However, there are seven major categories they fall into, including:

Business dashboards

Companies can’t make solid decisions without data, which is where business dashboards come into play. They can host all kinds of different data, from sales, finance, management, marketing, human resources, and more. They’re designed to give managers and directors the data needed to make strategic plans and refine ideas.

Executive dashboards

An executive dashboard is a specific type of business dashboard meant to visualize crucial metrics for the executive team. Usually, the data is high level, but gives leaders transparency into critical business activity and performance to help them make more informed decisions, better plan, and assess effectiveness.

KPI dashboards

Arguably one of the most important is the key performance indicator (KPI) dashboard—used by subject matter experts, executives, or laypeople. They visually display the performance of key data points at a glance, revealing progression toward key goals. The most important part of a KPI dashboard is to know what your KPIs are and the best way to measure them.

Project Dashboards

When running and/or managing a large project, this dashboard is a useful tool to track its progress and share that with your team and other key stakeholders. It offers a complete view of the project status, insights, and main data.

Performance dashboards

The versatile performance dashboard can track everything from overall business performance to the performance of individual campaigns. It’s useful for marketing, finance, advertising, human resources, and other business groups.

Website dashboards

When tracking site performance, creating a website dashboard is useful. It tracks data like overall traffic, total users, active users, e-commerce activity, sales, and revenue. Whether your organization maintains a simple or more complex site, this dashboard offers an integrated, clear view of your metrics.

Operations dashboards

This is a common type of business dashboard. Unlike the high-level dashboards previously mentioned, these are hyper-focused on helping you run the business day-to-day and give users an end-to-end view of daily operations.

Industry dashboards

Since dashboards are versatile and customizable to the needs of the user and business, they’re a common tool across different industries. Industries that rely heavily on data analysis to make decisions (e.g., healthcare, sales, and marketing) use these to help with their decision-making and problem-solving.

Here are some common industry dashboards:

Healthcare Dashboards

The healthcare industry deals with large amounts of critical data: hospital admission and discharge rates, costs, staff allocations, insurance claims, appointment attendance, no-show rates, and more. Healthcare dashboards keep that information accessible, understandable, and secure so clinicians, office administrators, and other healthcare staff can focus on improving patient outcomes.

Marketing Dashboards

Marketers of all levels deal with an overabundance of data due to the complex nature of online tracking and analytics. That’s why they rely on dashboards to streamline analysis and discover key insights that help enhance campaigns or performance. These dashboards include data such as return on investment (ROI), churn rate, retention, lead numbers, cost per lead, revenue, goal completions, and more.

Retail Dashboards

E-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores deal with complex data about inventory and profit, which is why many managers and owners utilize retail dashboards. They commonly house data such as the number of sales, net profit, inventory, foot traffic, or employee turnover and performance to help retailers understand areas such as performance, customer engagement, and how to improve service.

Sales Dashboards

The sales process is complex with many steps and people involved. A sales dashboard can vary depending on this process and the main KPIs, but oftentimes includes data like the number of leads, open cases, opportunities, contact, closed deals, lost opportunities, and revenue, which reveals to sales staff if they’re fulfilling, exceeding, or underperforming against different goals.

Dashboard best practices

Best practices for building and using dashboards vary across companies (and person to person). Keep in mind the goal you hope to achieve with the dashboard and who will look at it, as well as these considerations for creating a good dashboard:

  1. KPIs:Don’t overwhelm your audience with data. Choose only the most relevant data for and present it in a way that makes sense.
  2. Elements:Ensure you choose the correct charts, graphs, and tables for each piece of data. The best visual enhances understanding.
  3. Design:Make sure your dashboard is easy to understand at a glance by organizing the data and using a consistent color scheme.
  4. Labels:Be concise and clearly label every piece of information.
  5. Interactivity:Use interactive elements as needed. This allows people to drill further into data or shows variability.

Benefits of dashboards

There are many benefits to using dashboards as you visualize and understand data. For a start, it gives you a clear view of key data metrics that are important to your organization. Other major benefits include:

  • Data clarity
  • Real-time analytics
  • More accurate forecasting
  • More intuitive presentations
  • Increased accessibility and transparency
  • Better decision-making and problem solving

Dashboards: An ideal data tool to analyze, share, and understand data

Dashboards are a popular tool for a reason. As discussed, they’re highly versatile and customizable, which makes them incredibly useful no matter who you are, what kind of business you run, or what business group or job role you’re part of. Learn more about dashboards and how Tableau helps you visualize data quickly, easily, and effectively.

Given your interest in understanding data and dashboards, it seems you're exploring how to make informed decisions by leveraging visual data representations. Dashboards are an excellent way to achieve this goal, providing an organized, visual snapshot of various data sets. As an enthusiast with considerable experience in this realm, I've extensively engaged with different dashboard types, creation methodologies, and their utility across various industries.

The article delves into the following key concepts:

  1. Dashboard Definition: A visual representation of diverse data in a coherent manner, often incorporating key performance indicators (KPIs) or critical business metrics for easy comprehension.

  2. Dashboard vs. Reports: Dashboards offer a high-level, broad view of data, while reports tend to focus deeply on specific data sets or events.

  3. Data Dashboards vs. Data Visualizations: Data visualizations present data in a visual format, while dashboards are a collection of related data sets presented for easier understanding.

  4. How Dashboards Work: Dashboards aggregate data from multiple sources and utilize interactive elements to aid in comprehension and decision-making.

  5. Dashboard Uses: They are employed across various sectors to monitor and analyze data related to customer metrics, financials, sales, web analytics, and more, catering to different professionals' needs.

  6. Importance of Dashboards: They facilitate informed, data-driven decision-making by providing real-time insights into evolving scenarios.

  7. Creating a Data Dashboard: Steps involve defining the audience and goals, selecting relevant data, ensuring data accuracy, choosing appropriate visualizations, using templates, simplifying designs, and iterating for improvement.

  8. Types of Dashboards: Various categories include Business, Executive, KPI, Project, Performance, Website, Operations, and Industry-specific (Healthcare, Marketing, Retail, Sales).

  9. Dashboard Best Practices: Focus on relevant KPIs, choose appropriate visual elements, ensure design clarity, use concise labeling, incorporate interactivity as needed.

  10. Benefits of Dashboards: They offer enhanced data clarity, real-time analytics, improved forecasting, intuitive presentations, increased accessibility, transparency, and support better decision-making.

Understanding these concepts allows you to harness the power of dashboards effectively, whether for strategic planning, monitoring projects, assessing performance, or enhancing data-driven decision-making across diverse business domains.

What is a dashboard? A complete overview (2024)


What is the overview of dashboard? ›

A dashboard is a way of displaying various types of visual data in one place. Usually, a dashboard is intended to convey different, but related information in an easy-to-digest form.

What is a dashboard Quizlet? ›

What is a dashboard? A dashboard is a visual display of key metrics and trends for records in your org. The relationship between a dashboard component and report is 1:1; for each dashboard component, there is a single underlying report.

What is the meaning of dashboard in summary? ›

The Summary dashboard gives you a broad overview of the customer service experience in your organization. It uses AI to provide insights into topics that are generating the highest volume and which topics that are emerging with the highest rate of change in volume.

What is a dashboard in it terms? ›

A dashboard is an information management tool that receives data from a linked database to provide data visualizations. It typically offers high-level information in one view that end users can use to answer a single question.

What is dashboard example? ›

What is an example of a good dashboard? A good dashboard provides a comprehensive view overview of business operations by combining data from multiple sources. It should display real-time, accurate data visualizations that are customized to meet your organization's specific needs.

What functions can be performed by the overview dashboard? ›

The Overview dashboard lets you monitor important SQL performance, replication, and storage metrics.

What is dashboard and types of dashboard? ›

What is a dashboard? A dashboard is an information management tool used to track business KPIs, metrics, and key data points that are relevant to your business, department, or a specific process. Dashboards collect and visualize data from multiple sources, such as databases, locally hosted files, and web services.

What is dashboard worksheet? ›

Dashboards are a Spreadsheet.com document type, like Workbooks and Reports. Like Reports, Dashboards can display information from multiple workbooks and can be shared with other Spreadsheet.com users, or with the public.

What are dashboard items? ›

Dashboard items allow apps to display a summary information data on the dashboard. Each dashboard-item can be configured to display information relevant to a particular user.

How do you write a dashboard summary? ›

What should a dashboard report include? A dashboard should include the KPIs that are most important to your team. It should pull in data from a variety of systems including web analytics, CRM, sales and other applicable data. Users should be able to easily spot trends, manipulate data and communicate their data story.

Why is a dashboard called a dashboard? ›

The term "dashboard" actually dates back to the time when people used to travel by horse-drawn carriage. Then, the dashboard was merely a protective board that prevented the driver from being splashed with dirt "dashed-up" from the horses' hooves.

What is dashboard in planning? ›

Dashboards typically provide an overview to users at the beginning of their planning and forecast process by showing summary data. The versatility of dashboards enables users to chart, evaluate, highlight, comment on, and even change key business data.

Is a dashboard an information system? ›

In computer information systems, a dashboard is a type of graphical user interface which often provides at-a-glance views of data relevant to a particular objective or process through a combination of visualizations and summary information.

What are the four elements of dashboard? ›

Remember, the basic element of a dashboard are Objective (+primary and secondary drivers), Performance Indicator, Target and Activities.

What is dashboard and its benefits? ›

Dashboards provide a real-time snapshot of business performance, allowing managers and executives to make data-driven decisions. They can quickly identify trends, monitor efficiency, and respond to any changes in the business environment.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Sen. Emmett Berge

Last Updated:

Views: 5879

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Sen. Emmett Berge

Birthday: 1993-06-17

Address: 787 Elvis Divide, Port Brice, OH 24507-6802

Phone: +9779049645255

Job: Senior Healthcare Specialist

Hobby: Cycling, Model building, Kitesurfing, Origami, Lapidary, Dance, Basketball

Introduction: My name is Sen. Emmett Berge, I am a funny, vast, charming, courageous, enthusiastic, jolly, famous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.