How I design dashboards in Data Studio — Part 2: Structuring and organizing your page

CIPP (aka Complex Ideas Per Page)

The way you structure your dashboards is intrinsically tied to your users and how you plan on informing or improving their actions.

Information Density

You can’t fit an unlimited amount of metrics and charts on a laptop or mobile sized screen. So you need to choose wisely.

  • Top Level KPIs — How are we performing over this time period?
  • Deep Dive Metrics — How much are we spending? how many people are seeing our ads? Is it driving more purchases of our product? What does it cost for each of those purchases?
  • Individual Campaigns — What ads and campaigns are working best? Which are costing the most?

Infographic or data tool — to handhold or not to handhold

When thinking about laying out your metrics, visualizations and overall design you need to think about how much you trust your audience to interpret data on their own.

Sometimes it’s as simple as describing your data in plain english.

Focus areas and layout

This is basically a fancy way of saying that you should wireframe your idea, starting with the complex ideas you thought of at the first step of this article and then consider how much explanation and guidance is needed using the infographic v. data table exercise.

  • Consider the device that your audience will be using to view your dashboard. Data Studio does not allow responsive web design so you need to choose a screen size and stick to it. If you use a mobile sized screen, it’s important to know that Data Studio does allow users to scroll, so your wireframe can be taller than a typical mobile screen.
  • In most western cultures people tend to read from left to right and top to bottom (but that’s not true everywhere, so consider your audience). Think about where your reader’s eyes will start on the page. That’s often a good place for you to put the data equivalent of your ‘intro’ — adding filters/date ranges/descriptive titles to this section is a good idea.
  • People also tend to focus on larger metrics first, followed by smaller metrics. Big font sizes and large charts draw your attention and imply importance.
  • Big bold visuals can also break up the flow of the page and direct our attention. If your dashboard feels too dense or is just a collection of boring tables, it’s worth considering a visualization to break up the page.
  • Don’t worry too much about choosing the perfect visualization. If a pie or donut chart fits and makes the page more visually engaging, then add it. Despite what they teach you in Data Visualization courses, there are many situations where a pie chart is appropriate. Your primary concern is to avoid creating misleading insights — e.g. adding a line chart with two completely unrelated data series and implying a correlation or causation where there is none.
  • Don’t just think about the metrics or visualizations for each section, also consider the text descriptions you are going to provide. How are you going to spell out what a particular section is showing your audience? Where do you need more or less explanation.



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Josh Cottrell-Schloemer

Josh Cottrell-Schloemer

Building data-focused products. Startups acquired=1. Hobby = making Google Data Studio & Excel beautiful.