The importance of Simplicity in Dashboards and How to Avoid Pitfalls

The importance of Simplicity in Dashboards and How to Avoid Pitfalls

For many businesses, dashboards are a crucial part of their day-to-day operations. These visualisations help to inform employees, leaders and stakeholders of current positions, problems and opportunities in a manner that is both informative and intuitive. There is however, a fine line between a dashboard that helps inform business decisions and a dashboard that causes confusion and frustration. We are here to shed some light on how you can avoid these pitfalls and build exceptional & meaningful dashboards.

Avoid Clutter

This may seem obvious to many but in a lot of cases, analysts, data scientists & visualisers often over complicate their dashboards with too many visualisations. It is often forgotten that the main purpose of a dashboard is to communicate the most important bits of information to key stakeholders in the most simple way possible. There is a tendency to clutter dashboards with multiple graphs & components, which make them difficult to understand and are often irrelevant to the business problem.

If you are trying to relay a lot of different information in your dashboard we recommend it identifying aspects that don’t need to be there and collating that information into a table. Though it may not be visually appealing, it may be the most effective means of communicating your message to your audience. Remember, not everyone is trained to interpret data the way you are.

Simplicity = Understanding

It is true that not everyone has the technical training to interpret and analyse data the way an analyst or data scientist does. Because of this many people feel the need to create complex and flashy dashboards to display their technical ability, and that's fine. But more often than not, only a handful of people will have the ability to actually understand it. This is where simplicity is so important, providing insight into the problem at hand is the most crucial part of the dashboard. The best way to communicate these insights to the masses is through simple graphs/tables with good use of colours, texts, formatting and spacing. This provides the best chance of your audience having a complete understanding of what they are looking at.

Over Visualisation

In a very similar sense to cluttering a dashboard, over-visualisation is often an issue we tend to see in addition to including too many design elements or data points into a singular chart. We all can appreciate the difficulty of condensing an enormous amount of data into a small dashboard that the average Joe can understand, let alone a single chart. It’s a very technical skill, and unfortunately, it’s also a critical part of what makes a dashboard so essential.

The over visualisation of a business problem can more often than not leave stakeholders even more in the dark than they were before. So, here are a few data vis red flags to look out for:

  • A crowded chart, too many data points to the point where it’s near impossible to differentiate between them.

  • Too many colours, charts like this tend to draw attention away from the charts message.

  • A truncated axis, this can cause the data to be mis-represented in a chart.


Controls can be extremely useful in a dashboard, they can help your audience manipulate the data based on different variables such as dates and categories. Just like every other aspect of a dashboard, the controls are there to help your audience understand the data. If the controls are too complex or have too many options it can make the dashboard difficult to operate, while no controls can make the data too broad. 

The key is to find a middle ground to manipulate the data in a way that allows your audience to adjust the controls without compromising the presented information. Give them enough control to be able to play with time periods and basic categories, it’s a fantastic way for your audience to get more comfortable with data and dashboards in general.


Take all of this with a grain of salt, every dashboard requires a different approach and is viewed by different people, so the complexity required will always change. The single most important factor when making any dashboard is to understand your audience. Create visualisations that cater to their technical understanding to give them the confidence to make informed decisions and know that sometimes the best way to communicate information is much simpler than you think.

by Frankly

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