Awesome in-app dashboards (and how to make yours awesome too)

Not all dashboards are created equal. At Reflect, we see a lot of dashboards so we’re always on the lookout for the ones that have the perfect combination of beautiful visualizations, give meaningful insight, and make it easy to find exactly what you need.

Building a dashboard for your customers is really difficult to get right. As a product manager or designer you must have a clear sense of which points you want to convey to your users. If you’re not clear on your story your users won’t be either. Tell your customers what to look at, and tell them why it matters. The only thing worse than no insights is bad insights.

Below are some dashboards that are awesome (and some key takeaways we hope will help).

MailChimp

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MailChimp’s new dashboard is fantastic because all of the data that it presents is actionable; a lot of signal, no noise. You can look at the dashboard and immediately know what needs to be improved because your eyes are drawn to the most important metrics. I’m immediately drawn, for example, to revenue and audience metrics on the left. Those two numbers tell me most of what I need to know.

Key takeaways:

  • Emphasize actionable data
  • Draw users’ attention to the most important metrics
  • Make sure that data is segmented in the way the user thinks about it

FullStory

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FullStory does a great job of integrating visualizations into their regular app flow. This is important because the user doesn't have to visit a separate section -- it’s all there when they log in (and that counts for a lot). The few important widgets that are on the home page provide a ton of value by describing the list above, and also act as filters when you click on them (which is very helpful).

Key takeaways:

  • Make your visualizations immediately visible when a user logs in
  • Use visualizations to provide context for the rest of your application

Baremetrics

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Baremetrics is an actual dashboard product, not just a section of an app. Baremetrics de-emphasizes traditional visualization types and uses a single metaphor to illustrate all the important metrics. Once a user understands the metaphor they can scan across the entire page easily. The great thing about this format is that it takes only 5 seconds to digest.

Key takeaways:

  • Reduce the number of visualizations used on a page
  • Focus on legibility and clarity over completeness
  • Showing the raw numbers can be more powerful than visualizing them

Intercom

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Intercom has done an exceptional job of finding a few important things to surface to their users and removing everything else. That’s tough to get right and requires a high degree of confidence in the design process. Again, they’ve chosen to only use a single visual metaphor to get the point across; you don’t need a hundred knobs and dropdowns to deliver a compelling experience.

Key takeaways:

  • Focus on getting insights to your customers and don’t worry about “analytics”
  • Think long and hard about what needs to be visualized and remove all else

Simply Measured

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We love Simply Measured’s new Social Media Analytics dashboard (full disclosure: it’s powered by Reflect). The value of Simply Measured’s approach lies in that it’s highly configurable from a customer's perspective. The end user can slice data on an ad-hoc basis without finding themselves in a blind corner where they’re seeing meaningless data.

Key takeaways:

  • Tell your users what’s important, but don’t make too many assumptions
  • Give them a good starting point and let them explore (but make sure you set proper bounds for that exploration)

Conclusion

While every use case is different there are certain elements that are consistent across implementations. The best product dashboards only show the data that’s really important in an opinionated way while keeping the customer experience paramount. The worst dashboards either have no opinion or a really bad one.

At Reflect we’re always looking for inspiration, particularly when it comes to data visualization, dashboarding, and pristine user interfaces. We’d love to see some of the dashboards you like — please leave us a note with your favorites :)