Creating a Power BI Dashboard


Creating a Power BI Dashboard seems easy, especially because of the easy drag-and-drop experience. Unfortunately, this often leads to a disappointing experience when the end results are not what the user expects. Just putting numbers and visuals on a canvas is not good enough to actually create insights and use the information to take action.

It is a shame when a lot of time is spent collecting, cleaning, and testing data and eventually designing a dashboard when the dashboard is not used because of an inconsistent Power BI design.

This article shares steps you can take while designing a Power BI dashboard. Unfortunately, following these steps also do not lead to 100% guaranteed success simply because there is no one-size-fits-all dashboard. The same data can be visualized in different ways and thus can serve different purposes for different audiences.

Design Vision

Step 1 - Who is your audience?

Often, the end-user is not involved in the design process. This is because the focus is on the business requirements and time is spent on identifying, for example, the definitions of KPIs. The end-user, however, is the one who will ultimately work with the dashboard and make decisions based on the data.

To find out what the end-user is looking for, the following questions can be asked:

  • Who are the end-users? Is this an employee, multiple teams, or the entire company?
  • What is the Power BI experience?
  • How will the end-users interact with the dashboards? On a laptop, tablet, mobile, TV? Will it be printed?
  • What questions need to be answered by the dashboard? What actions do the end-users want to take based on the information?

Step 2 - Which information do you really need?

It may seem obvious, but not all available information is needed. And yet, companies are often convinced that they need all the data from the past 20 years, filtered in 20 different ways, to make decisions.

In reality, much less information is needed to make decisions and take action. But why is it so often asked for?

One reason is that they are used to it. People are used to being able to see all the information in their systems, so they think they need it in Power BI as well. Another reason is a lack of a data strategy. If it is unknown which data is required to make decisions, people often choose to use everything.

To design a good Power BI dashboard, discussing which data is important before and during development is essential. This can be done with a simple strategy session where the current situation is brought to the table and it is determined which information is necessary.

Questions you can ask to identify important information

  • What decisions do we want to make with this dashboard?
  • What actions will we take based on the information from the dashboard?
  • When I open the dashboard in the morning, I am looking for this information: _____ because I want to take these follow-up steps: _____.
  • When I present the results during the weekly meeting, I use graph _____ to show _____.

These questions are also helpful to ask when there is already an existing dashboard that is not or is poorly used. For example, when there is no use case for a particular chart or table, it is likely that it is not needed in the dashboard.

Step 3 - Templates, mock-ups and the final design

After you figure out what information is necessary to make decisions and actions, it is time to visualize the data.

But how do you start?

  • Choose a color scheme. This color scheme will be used throughout the dashboard. If a specific corporate style is important, look for matching colors.
    Helpful websites for this are:
  • Create a mock-up. A mock-up is a sketch of the final dashboard. You can make this sketch online or with pen and paper. The most important thing is to see how the dashboard looks visually without having to build the entire dashboard in advance.
  • Use a template. If there is more than one dashboard, it is recommended to use templates. Templates, for example, already have a color scheme and a (semi) fixed layout. This way, end users know exactly what to expect, such as information and filters that always appear in the same place.
Design Vision

Step 4 - Creating a Power BI dashboard design - the final step

The work in Power BI begins once the mock-up is created, discussed, and approved. This step is quite simple if the previous steps have been completed, as the layout and color scheme are already known. Sometimes you may find out that an idea that was previously developed does not work as well or that there are better options. This is not a problem, but it is an excellent time to reconsider your choices and discuss options.

Dashboard design is an iterative process. You learn more about the data and underlying processes during the process. This information can then be used to extract even more value from the data.

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