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I'm working on a B2B system that has a dashboard that displays analytics in a few charts. When new users sign into the system, the system doesn't yet have data to show them. Until the data is ready, we show the users the same charts, filled with dummy data.

My questions are:

  1. should I mark the data as dummy somehow, or should I assume that the users realize it themselves? (Microsoft chose the second approach on Power BI, see screenshot below)
  2. How can I mark this data as dummy? I thought of watermarks or titles.

Power BI

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  • One simple and effective way is to use "Lorem Ipsum" text in the headers. This is a dummy text which is well known across. Use of dummy headers would indicate its a dummy data. You can also generate as many "lorem Ipsum" online. www.lipsum.com Apr 28 '15 at 4:16
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Question 1: Dummy data should always be marked as dummy. There is no disadvantage to marking data as dummy, even if some users can tell on their own. However, if the data is unmarked and some users cannot tell that it is dummy, that can cause confusion.

Certain kinds of data are intrinsically an indication of being dummy. e.g if a list of people's names include (usually at the top) a John Doe/Jane Doe or some variation of these then it is somewhat indicative that the data is not real. Lorem ipsum passages are another example.

Question 2: Marking data as dummy can be done in various ways, including watermarks or tagging headings/titles as dummy. It can also be done by having actionables next to the dummy data that will lead the user to generating real data. e.g. Click here to (action here) and see your data come alive (In the case of Power BI).

You can also just display the dummy data without worrying about whether it is clear or not and have a 'Clear fake data' (or something like that) action that will be easy to see. That will tell your users that the data is dummy.

Advice: I doubt there is a general rule to be applied to all data. You will have to understand your users and the type of dummy data to know if they require an explicit mark or the data will reveal itself as being dummy. But ALWAYS have an indicator as there is no disadvantage to it. Don't be Microsoft.

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As you have nice spacing between the panels I would suggest turning the background red when dummy data is displayed. This makes is immediately apparent, even if you want to display an overlay title that disappears when the page loads.

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