Rather dashing dashboards
May 10, 2016
Looker dashboards are a key tool for telling interesting stories with data. Recently, we took the opportunity to make dashboards easier to visually consume by making a few simple and considered design changes.
Reduced cognitive load
Simple, clear presentation is critical for truly understanding data, so we’ve simplified the visual presentation of dashboards considerably. This allows people to focus on the data itself instead of on the ancillary information.
Side-by-side comparison of old vs new dashboard layouts.
You can see that the new dashboard layout makes much better use of space by reducing the amount of visual noise on each tile. We accomplished this by cleaning up repetitive information, standardizing font styles, and only surfacing controls when they are required.
We were also able to make several improvements to single value tiles to make them much more consumable at a glance. Since we’ve relocated some elements that took up a lot of space (like the tile footer), we’re able to increase the size of single values text and tile titles.
This results in a dashboard with a drastically increased amount of perceived white space, which feels a lot less cramped.
Even better, the new dashboards can actually fit more data in the same amount of space.
Don’t repeat yourself
Dashboards previously showed the time that tile was last run in the footer of each tile. Most often, though, all tiles on a dashboard will run at the same time in the same time zone. All that extra information causes your brain to do a lot of unnecessary work before it gets to think about the actual data.
In order to remove more visual weight, we decided to focus on the differences rather than similarities. So, we removed repetitive run time information and instead decided to show information on tiles that ran at a different time (or in a different time zone).
Tiles that differ from the default time zone are highlighted for easy reference with an icon and a tooltip that explains the details.
Single value tiles
We also added some simple, powerful functionality to single value tiles. First, we cleaned them up and standardized their font sizing, weight and color. Not only does this have a cleaner visual appearance, but having disparate sizes or colors could cause people to infer meaning where there isn’t any. We also moved the tile titles beneath the value, which places the context of the number’s meaning right to where it’s needed.
We also wanted to tackle typography, and in particular make sure dashboards always pick a consistent, readable font size. This is especially tricky, because the data can really be any length. For example, perhaps you have a tile that shows the city that sent you the most web traffic today. Today it could be Santa Fe, but tomorrow your traffic could all be from the Welsh village of LlanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochYou want your dashboard to display nicely in either case (or anywhere in between).
You also want to be able to put this information in a tile of any size on your dashboard, arranged nicely amongst your other tiles.
To this end, in the newly designed dashboards, we’ve rethought how sizing should work. Now, when the length of the value present in the tile changes, or you resize a dashboard tile to customize your layout, the other single value tiles increase or decrease their font sizes in tandem. This makes certain that you don’t have one tile with huge type and another with small type, which looks incongruous.
"Show comparison" to another piece of data
You can now add a comparison value to dashboard tiles to provide even more context. Several options are available to style the comparative value including the ability to show a progress bar, an up-or-down change, or just a simple value. You can put any value into the comparison, including any dimension, measure, or table calculation. This makes it really easy to compare two values, or to have a dynamically updating progress bar that reflects a current goal.
Context is king
In order to help add even more context to your dashboards, we’ve added a new component that allows users to add various types of explanatory text to their dashboards. You can add and edit title, subtitle, and body text and place it anywhere on the dashboard.
This makes it really simple to divide a dashboard into sections, or even to tell a multi-paragraph story about your data right alongside it.
Moving and sizing tiles
We’ve made it much easier to move and size tiles on your dashboards thanks to a completely rewritten layout engine. The new engine is much faster and much smarter about how tiles interact when moving and resizing. Tiles will move out of the way to make space more easily, and they won’t disrupt the layout as you move past them. It’s also much easier to move elements around while scrolling through the dashboard, like to quickly move something from the top to the bottom.
The new dashboard changes are also all available when embedding. The embed options have been simplified to make it easier than ever to match the color scheme you’re after.
The end of the beginning
Dashboards are hugely important to us at Looker – they allow you to curate a data experience however you want – whether it’s a polished overview of critical metrics for your business or a robust operational tool.
We’re really excited to bring you this set of new features – and we couldn’t have done it without the incredible feedback from our community of Looker customers. We want to hear what you think about our new, much more dashing, dashboards. So, feel free to send us a note with your ideas and comments!
But we’re just getting started. We think it's really important to make dashboards as easy as possible to create, consume, and edit. We have a lot of really exciting features and improvements we’re working on across the entire product. We can’t wait to show you what’s next!