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Developing a "tiled" dashboard for one of my clients, I am considering the employment of "text-based summary" in lieu of absolute figures.

For those unfamiliar with a "tiled" dashboards, below is an example dashboard by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

IMA Tiled Dashboard Example

Juice Analytics, in their publication "A Guide to Creating Dashboards People Love to Use", briefly discuss the use of what they refer to as "Text-based Summary" with the example (credited to WebTrends) attached below. Their description is as follows:

Text-based summary: Automatically generated textual description of the key information in the dashboard. This can be as simple as a sentence that includes a couple important data points.

Text-based Summary by WebTrends

I found the example to be quite verbose and not well suited to the simplicity of the tiled layout. I have been playing around with an example for revenue against forecast, and have come up with the following:

Experimental Text-based Summary

However, this solution still seems inefficient as the figures still do not communicate their meaning effectively. Moreover, the more data present in each tile, the less clear the message becomes.

Can anyone provide some suggestions to better highlight the key information being presented in this summary at a glance, whilst also communicating the relationships between the figures?

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The summary you have produced seems quite clear to me, although I'd drop the pennies. What is the actual meaning you reckon is not well communicated? And are all bits of information similar to the example you produced? I can think of a nice infographics for this, but don't know about what else you need to do. –  Izhaki Jan 29 at 0:10
    
@Izhaki My issue with my solution is that (even with colour) the meaning of the figures is not immediately apparent. Text-based summary seems to excel at presenting relationships between figures at the cost of disassociating them from their meaning (revenue, forecast, variance, etc.). I'm hoping that someone can suggest an improvement that highlights the meaning of the figures better than my use of colour has done. –  Daemon Jan 29 at 0:15
    
A big challenge with dashboards is that in an attempt to imply additional meaning to raw data, you may end up communicating the wrong thing if the proper context isn't there. So, be careful...really focus on what the key metrics they are after and see if it makes sense to use something above and beyond the numbers. (a simple example: does having MORE defects reported one week than another mean something is good or bad? Well, it depends...does it mean the code is sloppier this week? Or does it mean a lot more code was written?) –  DA01 Jan 29 at 0:21
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Can anyone provide some suggestions to better highlight the key information being presented in this summary at a glance, whilst also communicating the relationships between the figures?

First of all, is there a definable correlation between particular numbers that can then mathematically indicate a 'status'? It's tricky, because you don't want to lead to conclusions that aren't there. Sometimes it's best to avoid connecting the relationships and instead simply doing trending on that figure alone. So "compared to last week, this number is up, so we'll use a green arrow to indicate that. But we don't know WHY it's up so we'll let you, the user, make the needed correlations regarding that"

Since I've worked in IT a long time, my favorite example was when the dev team and testing team were given annual goals for the next year. The dev team's goal was to have each developer have no more than 3 defects logged per week. The testing team's goal was to increase the number of defects they log per tester. Aside from that being a contradiction, neither goal really had anything to do with the key issues that should have been measured: is the product the developers and testing team developing improving things for the customer? As such, using the defect logs as some sort of 'dashboard metric' was a giant red herring.

Now, if after all that you find that there is a strong relation between particular sets of numbers, then the visual fix for your layout is to not place them in separate boxes. They should visually be connected in the same contained space.

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