Mobile Dashboards: An Introductory Guide

Mobile dashboards are everywhere. Learn what mobile dashboards are and how they’re used to make more informed business decisions. Also see how data visualizations are used to provide a holistic view of KPIs at-a-glance for quick decision-making.

What Is A Mobile Dashboard?

A mobile dashboard is a data analytics tool used to track important key performance indicators (KPIs) and display them visually on a mobile device. They are insightful and interactive consoles that use configurable elements (such as search results, lists, filters, matrixes, gauges, and charts) to drill down into data, analyze, predict trends, and display critical metrics and information relevant to users. They provide users with instant access to business-critical information from a variety of sources, enabling them to make better decisions on the go.

Components of Mobile Dashboards

Mobile dashboards have similar components to business dashboards, but with a few key differences. The components of business dashboards include:

  • Data sources
  • Data Visualizations
  • Filters
  • KPIs
  • Navigation menu

The key differentiator from business dashboards is that mobile dashboards are built with the mobile user in mind. They must be compatible with a mobile device, such as a phone or tablet, and are designed specifically for mobile use cases such as field agents or retail associates. They often provide real-time information to the user so they can act on it immediately. For this reason, the data for mobile dashboards needs to be timely.

Benefits of Mobile Dashboards

Improved access to real-time data

Traditional access to data requires the user to connect to a hard-wired network, limiting when and where the data can be accessed. When dashboards can be accessed via mobile device, data can be referenced in real time. This presents an opportunity for many otherwise impossible use cases. For example, a retail associate could access a mobile dashboard on a tablet to immediately tell a customer if an out-of-stock product will be re-stocked soon or if it can be found at another store.

Faster decision-making

Since real-time data can be accessed anywhere at any time, users of mobile dashboards can make decisions much faster than ever before. This is a result of improved broadband networks, which make it possible to stream large amounts of data to mobile devices instead of hard-wired connections. Imagine an automobile company is behind its production schedule of a popular car, and a series of decisions need to be made to call for overtime at plants, hire additional workers, and order more parts. An executive at the auto company can use a real-time dashboard to be alerted to the problem immediately. They can then set the necessary steps to speed up production.

New or improved business models

Organizations can incorporate mobile dashboards into their strategic planning to create new or improved business models. For example, if a company sells point-of-sale systems for restaurants and other retailers, they can incorporate mobile dashboards into their offering to provide the customer with real-time information about what products are selling best and what needs improvement. The point-of-sale company can develop this into a separate product, or incorporate it into its existing line. Executives can use this capability to stand out from competitors.

Increased knowledge sharing

With improved access to data, employees can share data more easily than ever. Sharing is further improved when dashboards include an interactive capability that allows users to send information, as well. When data can be shared easily with anyone, anywhere, and on any device, everyone is more informed and can make better decisions.

Mobility Trend

Historically, business intelligence (BI) teams focused on building dashboards to run on computer systems. However, with the rise of mobility, the advent of the mobile workforce, and an increase in the number of employees who prefer using mobile devices for work-related functions, companies can no longer ignore the importance of building mobile dashboards for the enterprise.

As such, most organizations now require their BI teams to design and support mobile dashboards that are optimized for use on smartphones and tablets.

This means that BI teams must focus on designing reports and dashboards that deliver relevant information in a consumable format. Such dashboards are reinventing the ways reports are consumed and KPIs are monitored in corporate environments.

Mark Smith, CEO of Ventana Research, lays out 6 key enterprise mobility trends:

  1. Device proximity features
  2. Gestures and camera-based input
  3. Biometrics
  4. Ability to take images to capture and share within business processes
  5. Augmented reality
  6. Speech recognition on mobile devices

Forward-thinking organizations will incorporate these trends into their usage of mobile dashboards. For example, including speech recognition abilities within dashboards will allow users to access information through speech instead of physical input.

Mobile Dashboard Examples

Healthcare

Nurses and other healthcare personnel need instant access to real-time information and patient statistics to determine the best care to deliver. Health professionals can meet with patients and show them personalized KPIs in real time and offer prescriptive recommendations. For example, a doctor could view a patient’s blood pressure over time with data points related to diet, exercise, and medications to show how the patient has progressed.

Energy

Operations managers in gas companies need to know the volume of gas produced and supplied per day to predict things like production volume. They can access real-time data to make operational decisions, such as the need to employ overtime hours or to plan for production cuts.

Sales

Salespeople can utilize mobile dashboards when they’re outside the office to determine who to contact and to strengthen sales presentations. When traveling from one client to the next, they can access dashboards via phone or tablet to see which accounts are most likely to be open to a sales call and which products they’re interested in. In addition, they can utilize dashboards to during sales meetings to show prospective clients and existing customers customized data.

Executives

Executives can get a real-time check on business operations and performance whenever and wherever they are. This results in fast, top-down decision-making which makes the business more agile and competitive. For example, an executive at a bank can see current reserve requirements, new accounts opened over time, or overnight interest rates.

Mobile Dashboard Design Best Practices

The field of mobile dashboard development comes with special challenges for both BI managers and designers. Developers must consider the array of mobile platforms on the market and contend with reduced screen real estate. To ensure a seamless user experience, let’s look at best practices for mobile dashboard design.

Keep It Simple

Mobile dashboard designers must balance functionality with consumer expectations of user experience. The balance between these two requirements is a challenge made more complicated by the rapid proliferation and evolution of smartphones and tablets. This means dashboards must be designed to run on different screen sizes and multiple platforms. As such, mobile dashboard designs should be kept simple. The less involved and complicated the dashboard is, the easier it will be to fit in additional functionality. By focusing on a subset of key data, designers can reduce the size of their mobile dashboards (meaning increased portability for mobile devices) and optimize use of available screen real estate. Simple and minimal dashboard designs minimize clutter, enabling users to easily see and access dashboard elements. Also, delivering a mobile dashboard with a minimal set of features allows users to focus on key outliers and KPIs. This helps increase productivity since causative factors can be easily pinpointed in problematic or successful areas.

Responsive Design

It’s essential to create dashboards that are responsive to the screen of any device so they can be used consistently across interfaces. This can be accomplished by developing dashboards within a mobile application or using HTML-based responsive code, which can be accessed in a web browser. Responsive design requires a single set of code to be developed and recognizes the size of the screen to resize the dashboard accordingly. Dashboards can then be accessed using a phone, web browser, tablet, watch, or TV screen.

Placement

Although this seems like a no-brainer, it’s surprising how often designers get placement wrong. People are conditioned to read from top to bottom and left to right. As a result, the most important elements should be placed in the top left corner, while the least important should go to the bottom right. It’s also important to ensure the dashboard doesn’t require scrolling, so everything should be above the page fold.

Maximize the Use of Feature Charts

Since the screen size of mobile devices can only display a few data tables and charts, it’s best to use them wisely. When it comes to mobile dashboard design, bar charts and pie charts are great tools for linking other visuals within the same page or in other reports. Features like pop-up panels and tool tips can help users get the details they need with minimum hassle.

Drill with Importance

Although dashboards were intended to drill down and provide in-depth views of key performance data, creating one with 10 panels for smartphone users isn’t a good idea. Mobile dashboards should only feature summarized data, key information, and trending KPIs on the landing page. Users can then choose to access secondary details using pagination or drill-downs.

Minimize the Use of Filters

The right set of filters helps mobile workers better leverage reports and mobile dashboards. Although filters enable users to quickly access different data views, they are best kept to a minimum on mobile devices. This helps conserve limited screen real estate and improves overall experience on mobile.

Stay Consistent

Designers should always maintain the same layout and user interface when designing reports and dashboard elements. It can be confusing when the look and feel of reports are completely different from that of the mobile dashboard. Keeping colors consistent across all reports and providing an intuitive workflow helps accelerate users’ learning curve and eliminates confusion.

Contrast

Since the screen sizes of mobile devices are smaller than those of desktop devices, it’s best to create aesthetically pleasing interfaces for mobile dashboards. Designers can do this by contrasting foreground and background colors. This is effective because mobile devices tend to represent objects in the foreground with lighter colors, while darker colors are used for the background. Applying this to mobile dashboards means that outliers and KPIs will become more visible.

Limit the Number of Elements

When it comes to mobile dashboard design, simplicity is key. The more design elements in a dashboard or report, the harder it is for users to make sense of the data. It’s easier to make out important values when reports are presented in a simple data sheet rather than flashy charts with lots of data points and colors. Ideally, mobile dashboards should only include the minimum number of elements required and should never exceed four or five on any given screen. Trying to fit more will result in overly busy visualizations,¬¬ and users will be unable to properly view individual elements.

“Fat-Finger” Friendly Design

Nearly everyone who has ever used a smartphone has tried to select a button, dropdown menu, icon, or other elements from an app and ended up selecting something else. This can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially when it happens multiple times in a row. The reduced screen real estate on mobile devices makes it challenging for users to select items/objects that are next to each other. When designing mobile dashboards, it’s essential for designers to eliminate these barriers. Mobile dashboard designers should incorporate adequate spacing between visuals, links, and filters. Ensure that touch targets do not overlap and are at least 48 x 48 dp so users can comfortably select them with their fingers.

Focus on the Right Metrics

Most individuals who use mobile dashboards have little or no need to view analytics on their devices. This is because the limited screen sizes of mobile devices aren’t ideal for in-depth analysis and drilled-down data. Also, workers who use mobile dashboards are usually on the go and aren’t in a position to sit down and take the time to look through large datasets. It’s obvious that certain types of data won’t be beneficial to or viewed by mobile dashboard users. As such, analytical data visualization capabilities shouldn’t be included when designing mobile dashboards. Most workers will only use mobile dashboards when they need to view information on relevant operational performance metrics, as these can be quickly consumed for immediate data-driven action.

Dashboard Design Inspiration

  • MicroStrategy

    The MicroStrategy analytics community showcases many user-generated examples of dashboard design. You can browse use cases related to many different business functions and industries.

  • Dribble

    Dribble is a community for designers to share their designs and is used as a destination for inspiration and a way to showcase portfolios.

  • CSform

    CSform is a design resource for iOS and Android designers and developers. It features many mobile UI/UX kits and mockup tools.

  • Speckyboy

    Speckyboy is a web design magazine that features design articles, examples, and best practices.