“By the way, does it work on mobile?”
We hear that question more and more as stakeholders and decision-makers alike spend more of their time on their mobile devices. But it’s long past the time it should be an afterthought to companies who value their competitive edge. After all, smartphones and other mobiles are almost always within easy reach and almost always with connectivity. So when it comes to enabling team members and stakeholders to access, monitor, and respond to critical information in real time, the mobile dashboard has become a powerful solution.
Salespeople, managers, and C-suite executives can track progress and performance and decide where to focus next. Their mobiles are sometimes the only choice they have to get current and quickly respond in meaningful and effective ways. No matter where they are.
Let’s break that down. First: getting current. Realtime reports and metrics can be viewed from anywhere to keep users informed about progress, performance, or issues. With alerts, users don’t even have to initiate the inquiry: status will come to them. For example, they could finish a sales call and get a new sales alert on their mobile phone reporting the new success metric only a few minutes later. Alerts and up-to-date reporting can inspire new action that furthers action and efforts even more. No one can blame lack of awareness if performance benchmarks aren’t met. The insights are there for them to see at anytime, anywhere.
Second: responding. See something wrong with today’s sales report? You can call your team before you even get to the office. Achieve your monthly goals a little early? Well, then maybe it’s time to take a break and relax. Notice some worrisome server errors? You can respond immediately and call a supplier to schedule a fix. You can’t do that anywhere near as seamlessly on other systems. You’d have to connect to an office network via VPN, access the company portal, login, and final begin to browse dashboards. Way too cumbersome to be realistic. Mobile can be incredibly seamless.
Mobile apps on your devices let you share information quickly. If you get a dashboard alert, for example, you can take a mobile screenshot and forward it via email or text. In many cases, you can do things faster and more efficiently than on your desktop. Plus, with no logins to manage except your phone password, you can be confident that nobody else can get to your dashboards.
Dashboards for Mobile
How to best design dashboards for mobile, then? Due to the reduced real estate of the interface, information has to be provided in ways that are easier to access and easier to mentally process than what is usually offered on desktops. Because of the limited size and scope of the devices, only the most succinct and meaningful data should be presented. In other words, get to the point. Put the key metrics right up front and on top. No one wants to have to scroll endlessly through what doesn’t matter to get to the useful part.
You’ll be guided by different goals for your mobile dashboards than you would for desktop applications. Small screen devices do well to display key metrics, single charts, summaries, and business insights. They’re perfect for quick answers to specific questions and quick perusal of the bigger picture. Desktop platforms are going to be more amenable to allow drilling down into deeper detail, a feature that is especially useful for managers. Mobile platforms, on the other hand, can serve best to build orders on the go, to receive alerts about customer inquiries, and to monitor sales channels.
6 Key Practices for Mobile Dashboards
Ask questions first
Begin by defining what questions your users will be asking the most when they fire up the mobile. Then pare down the data to reflect those and related questions, if possible. Think about the hierarchy of information that they will traverse as they seek out data. What insights are most in demand? What will keep them moving forward? What keen insights and knowledge will help them look good when they walk into that sales meeting or business transaction? What metrics do they want at their fingertips?
Know your users
The more you understand the habits, personalities, and activities of your target users at their job, the more you will understand the circumstances under which they’ll be accessing data and what they’re seeking when they do so. Take some time to build a sketch of how they work and when then need the insights your dashboards will provide. These conditions will color the ways in which they access their data and will decide how effectively they can use it.
Choose less over more
Less Content. Dashboards are at their best when they deliver just a few key messages—not necessarily all of the insights related to the topic. Loading too much content on a single dashboard can result in information-overload for the viewer at a time when what they’re looking for is clarity. Consider building multiple dashboards to focus on key issues and provide insights separately.
Fewer bells and whistles. Too many slick design elements will only distract and confuse your user, making it harder (and slower) for them to find and discern the metrics they’re looking for. So pare down and simplify; focus on featuring the bottom line, the summaries, and the takeaways cleanly and clearly.More Simple. Simplicity is your friend. In a small-screen environment, clarity and simplicity override complexity and swag. Deliver the most impact with less-complicated charts, clean color palettes, and easy-to-read fonts. Make it easier for your audience to understand the data and insights you’re serving them.
Use filters wisely
With filters, your viewers can quickly treat themselves to refined views of data and hone in on insights about subsets of the volumes of data they access. Users can limit their insights to those that pertain only to specific departments, populations, time frames, and more. Yet on mobile devices, it’s best to keep filters to a minimum, due to the size limitations of the small screen. Place filters in such a way that the user can quickly see how to interact with the data. Grouping them together can help them find their way to the answers they seek on your mobile dashboard.
Leave room for finger error
Keep in mind that while the visual screen is smaller on mobile devices, so is the area of finger contact to select one option over another. It can be challenging to select objects that are right next to each other. While not a sophisticated “feature,” the effort it takes to address this issue is surprisingly helpful to reduce frustration and to speed up the interaction time. Be sure to include some space between visuals, links, and filters. We’ve all been through it: going down the wrong rabbit hole because of a misdirected “tap.” The size of buttons and direction options can make or break your user experience.
Make it stand out
As practical and functional a tool as a BI dashboard is, it also needs to be aesthetically pleasing. Especially because the screen size is a fraction of those of desktops, it’s even more important that your mobile dashboards look good and are easy to stare at. Using contrast between background and foreground colors helps. Use darker colors for backgrounds, and lighter colors on the objects intended to be in the foreground. Use more diluted colors for supportive data, and more saturated color for buttons, links, and other controls. Put the most important metrics front and center. Consider large type, too. Your users will thank you for it.