One of the reasons I gravitated towards a career in data visualization was just that — the visualizations. My background is in the visual arts and to see data, facts and numbers, concepts and correlations, all brilliantly designed and represented in colorful graphs activated both sides of my brain. I also have a deep appreciation for good design. Good design uses the principles of visual encoding and pre-attentive attributes to communicate clearly and effectively. Good design also invites and engages the end user.
As an analytics consultant, I spend most of my time designing dashboards so that our clients can make heads and tails of their massive amount of data. However, “designing dashboards” is a multi-step, iterative and engaging process (see our UCDD course for how we do this at Interworks.) Design is a big part of making dashboards accessible to the end user. I am fortunate enough to have a background in design and we have an amazing design team here at Interworks who assist in helping us craft visually appealing, easy to use dashboards.
But what if you don’t? For many of our clients, developers are the ones carrying the weight of dashboard development. Design may come last on the priority list or might be an after thought. This is where a Style Guide comes in handy. Your organization probably already has a Style Guide that resides with your marketing team, used for guiding the standardized look of webpages, printed material, internal communications, etc. Having a Style Guide specific to dashboard design can help your developers and analytics teams create standardized dashboards where end users can expect consistent formatting in layout, fonts and icons throughout dashboards. This can help elicit confidence from the end user and present a polished finished product. (See our Design Principals blog)
Most Style Guides are PDFs, easy to share or post internally. The Style Guide we’re sharing, however, was created in Tableau. Yep, you heard it right: it’s a Tableau Style Guide in Tableau! To be specific, it’s a Tableau StoryPoint, so you can read through it like a manual. We’ve used a fake company, Hard Hats, to give sample layout for the most common features needed in a style guide (orange header slides). There are also design principals (blue header slides) that include some basic concepts that might be helpful for anyone learning the visual attributes commonly found in data visualizations. The pencil icons link to more in depth blog posts from Interworks on the topics featured.
Because this Style Guide is in a Tableau format, you can publish it on your Tableau Server! We’d recommend publishing to either a sandbox or development environment location so it’s easy to find for your developers and Tableau creators. Show your other Tableau users how to star as a favorite so they can access it whenever they need to build a new dashboard. This Style Guide also has some pre-made templates that you can customize to your organization and give your developers a jumpstart on dashboard building. Having this on your server will also be a reminder to update as your organization updates any branding changes. Include a link to your Tableau Style Guide for on-boarding material for new Tableau users.
Knowing the basics of design principals can help your organization’s dashboards look refined, cohesive, and a little more user-friendly. With good design comes great data! Enjoy: