I'm redesigning a reviewer-type website for college entrance exams - there are different categories such as math, science, english. Students can take as many review quizzes/exams as they want, and they can choose to take an entire exam, or just chosen subjects.

For the student dashboard, we have to show the current score of the student, and splits across the different subjects, and sub-subjects (ex: science splits to biology, physics, chemistry). My boss wants me to use the UI design element in 0:22 of this video (http://www.fathomhq.com/tour) as the "central UI element". This is what it looks like

Fathom HQ display thing

I do not think this is satisfactory, although I am still a young designer, because

  • Our users are high school students or college-aged students. I'm not sure they'd appreciate the complexity.
  • Too little pixel to information density (For the space it takes I think it conveys too little information). I think either bar/line graphs or even a table would actually be better.
  • There are more software libraries (JavaScript) supporting graphs/tables vs. gauges/whatever this thing is.
  • I honestly think he is too enamoured with this design.

Help, am I in the wrong or in the right? How do I tell my boss that I think this is just not a good decision?

(P.S. Not sure with the tags I am sort of new here)

  • Gauges are only really useful for 'At a glance' figures, they are best displaying a one or two figure measurement, the example above just seems to be a designer showing off and is not of much use. Nov 4, 2013 at 13:17
  • Daryll, I'm curious as to how you resolved this with you boss. (Sorry, I had to post here, but this is when private messaging would've come in useful) Nov 22, 2013 at 19:57
  • 2
    Hey @ImmanuelNwachukwu, he eventually relented. I actually told him that I spoke to a couple of "ux gurus", but I also showed him examples of dashboards of educational sites such as Khan Academy, Codecademy, Codeschool, etc. Then I asked him if he still wanted to do the dash thing, considering the options. I think it's better if they make the decision, so that it's not a me vs. you type of thing. Nov 23, 2013 at 21:30
  • kudos for the way you dealt with you boss
    – Dvir Adler
    Apr 27, 2014 at 16:14

3 Answers 3


In general, "dashboards" that consist of lots of visual charts/graphs/dials/gauges:

  • are something management LOVES
  • are rarely all that useful

At most, I'd suggest looking at color as a strong indicator of status. At least that has some typical relevance (uh oh, it's red! Who do I yell at!?)

Beyond that, though, stick with communicating data rather than decorating the page with visuals. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

The example visual looks great but I have absolutely no idea what it's trying to communicate.

  • If he insists I will have to put one on the page T_T but for the sake of the students (who I don't think are even familiar with gauge-type solutions since I don't think they can even drive cars at that age) I'll figure something out. How do I tell my boss that our users might not find the circular thing useful? Nov 4, 2013 at 6:08
  • 4
    Ideally, via user testing. Bosses listen to data.
    – DA01
    Nov 4, 2013 at 6:09
  • 1
    BTW, I don't know the issue is so much 'students not knowing what a gauge is' but rather that gauges aren't really all that useful for showing this type of data.
    – DA01
    Nov 4, 2013 at 6:10
  • Colour should not be your only status indicator. Wikipedia: "Deuteranomaly, [...], is by far the most common type of color vision deficiency, mildly affecting red–green hue discrimination in 5% of European males." I don't know what the value is for the entire world, but if it's anything like that there will likely be some among the users.
    – l0b0
    Nov 4, 2013 at 9:01

Break down what the purpose is. It is to show a lot of different categorized scores right? Should they be able to compare each one to the other easily? This circle layout makes that very difficult by putting the spread out so far from one another as well as changing the orientation of the type so many times that it is dizzying. Start with the goals and requirements, not a solution, and then you will have more luck. Try working with progressive disclosure where you show the main categories first and then expand and contract as needed. If the goal is to make it feel more like a game or to accomplish more goals, a spider-graph can often be used or some kind of empty bar that fills with each accomplishment like an experience indicator in video games. But really, these are guesses based on a broad description. In the end, if your boss really loves the chart, ask them why? What parts work well for them and then ask about your concerns of density, type, etc. Then maybe you help them see the strengths and weaknesses and you can form a partnership on a solution instead of butting heads on it. But don't just ask what they like, be directed and have a plan for making sure you understand the desired outcomes, not just the broad opinions.


This is not even readable here, not sure how anyone would appreciate this design.

Does this gauge need any click event? (Can't make out from this image)

Does this rotate or change state? (Is there a specific reason why this should be circular)

What if number of nodes are more that your circle can accommodate? (have you thought of scalability)

How do I tell my boss that I think this is just not a good decision?

I guess best way is to show him the result of user testing!

  • My understanding is that there are click events to change the category of data seen (they change colors, too). Over the past hour I've been reading Information Dashboard Design and I think circles take up too much space for too little data presented. What I plan on doing is to just do 2 prototypes, one circular ala FathomHQ and one with my own, rectangular design and show them to users, and tell my boss the results. Thank you for the comment. Nov 4, 2013 at 6:06

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