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Excel Dashboards : Design Principles & 10 Golden Rules

A dashboard is a visual interface. It displays data graphically and provides at-a-glance views into key measures. How you can have a simpler and more effective dashboard design? Here are the 10 basic rules:

  • First of all, simplify your dashboard. Don’t include too much data or too much information in a report. Keep it simple. Also, the less fancy formatting your dashboard has, the easier is to read. Charts should present your data as simple as possible.

  • Avoid using background fills or fancy effects like shadows, gradients, or glow. Also, pictures or clipart doesn’t help.

  • Remove elements that don’t contribute to the core message. Here are some examples:

  • Remove borders

  • Avoid data labels that are not necessary

  • Remove gridlines (vertical and horizontal)

  • Remove axis that don’t

  • Try to fit your dashboard and your data on one page (maybe you can adjust column and row width or reduce white space).

  • Put your most important measures to the upper left side of Excel worksheet. Users pay attention to specific regions.

  • Use descriptive titles for each component.

  • Use effective format numbers.

  • Include a timestamp on your dashboard (monthly or yearly, for example).

  • When it’s necessary, use a few comments or labels to help users clarify your model.

  • Make sure that the users have to click a few times to get their data and the navigation is easy.


Also, before starting to create your dashboard, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Where are my source data and how they will be organized?

  2. What calculations do I need to perform?

  3. How and when I will update my dashboard?


The most useful Excel functions for dashboards are:

  • VLOOKUP function

  • HLOOKUP function

  • CHOOSE function

  • SUMPRODUCT function


Don’t forget to avoid the following issues:

  1. Importing too much data. You should only import data that’s necessary for the purpose of the dashboard.

  2. Trying to keep your data model limited to one worksheet. If a user needs to scroll to view all the elements, it will be difficult to understand the data model.

Thank you very much and waiting for your questions.

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Last modified onMonday, 15 February 2016 17:25
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