Traditional dashboards, by definition, were meant to provide an “at-a-glance” view of the state of affairs of a business. As a matter of fact, there were web analytics experts who asserted that a dashboard that does not fit in a single page were not dashboards at all and that they were just reports.
According to Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google, “If your dashboard does not fit on one page, you have a report, not a dashboard…..This rule is important because it encourages rigorous thought to be applied in selecting the golden dashboard metric.”
Now, if this was just one of the few constraints that applied to the conventional belief in one-page dashboards, it would have been a different scenario. But referring to a constraint, as a rule, leads to the assumption that there is only one possible means to achieve the results. I find that it limits the scope of a dashboard and thus affects the effectiveness.
Given that the purpose of a dashboard is to give an accurate, concise and effective description of what the users want to see, limiting it to pages or screens did not seem to be the brightest of ideas. And apparently, this was not just what I thought. As time flew, and as technology conquered whole new levels, people slowly realized the paradox – In the age of touch screens and interactive user interfaces, having single page dashboards is like owning the old heavy and fist-thick mobile phones in place of smartphones.
Not that the old dashboards did not serve the intended purpose at all. They did justice to what they had to represent in those times. But now, with the changes in technology and data and analytics, we are forced to move away from such principles for a number of reasons.
WHAT LED TO THE PHASING OUT OF ONE-PAGE DASHBOARDS?
One of the major reasons why dashboards longer than a page were considered to be sins was the grudge against “scrolling”. How can we possibly ask them to scroll or navigate when they are looking for information “at a glance”?
But now, with touch screens and gestures, navigation, on the whole, let alone scrolling has become easy as ever. Such kinds of interaction methods have actually extended what users used to consider as single screens. There are many marketing sites as well these days, that make use of vertical scrolling for navigation and have immense traffic. It also shows how people have changed and got accustomed to new ways of technology.
Earlier (much earlier), dashboards were mere static documents with a high-level overview of the data with no chance for the users to interact with it. Then came a little more sophistication with spreadsheet software, having advanced features to make dashboards interactive. Again, there were limitations. So the basic idea of interacting with the data, and being able to extract desired specific information, led to the expansion of the scope of dashboards and without much thought, one-page dashboards can be put out of the picture.
Only the specifics
As is the case with most people these days, lack of time and attention span, limit their ability to view and understand things properly. With smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches, people are seeking only the most relevant information and that’s what they deliver. Only specific or the most critical information is delivered and the rest is only given as a choice (on request). This new ask-and-get mode of information exchange does not really fit well with one-page dashboards. We cannot expect people living in this age to analyze data from a single page, crammed with data, figures and illustrations.
Even with all the technological influences, the purpose of dashboards remains the same – to show the big picture in the easiest, most comprehensive way possible. And today’s technology is a great means to achieve that goal. Dashboards today, do more than just providing insights. They also guide the users through the data and help in making actionable decisions. Single-page dashboards, cannot do any of these and are hence phased out!