Dashboard Design Process – #MakeoverMonday

Dashboard Design Process – #MakeoverMonday

So the other half of the data duo (Adam) suggested I do a blog post on how I designed my recent MakeoverMonday entry. It was hard to ignore his suggestion because off late he is doing a great job filling for my lack of activity on this blog. And so, I thought it was a great idea.

Andy Kriebel posted a link to The Marshall Project’s sophisticated visualization looking at death penalty in the US and which methods of executions are used across the US. I actually really liked the original visualization. But keeping in mind the privacy of those being executed, I refrained from showing identities and took a more general approach.

Recent chatter on twitter about benefits of floating elements on dashboards vs. tiling have been pretty interesting. I personally use, 100% floating vs. tiling especially when it comes to unleashing my creative side. Of course, it has its own cons in that iterative designs become more difficult but that is usually not the case for projects like MakeoverMonday because it is just a one-time effort.

So, why do I float?

  • It lets me place elements (text boxes, images, worksheets) at precise pixels on the dashboard.
  • Overlaying of elements on one another opens a whole new level of possibility
  • The ability to bring forward or backward an element lets you have full control over your dashboard
  • Infuses size and dimension variety on the dashboard because each chart/element doesn’t have to be the same size when you float elements

I like to begin by showing ‘what the dashboard is all about’? For this visualization I wanted to start with

  • The top 10 states that perform executions in the US
  • And how Texas by far out spaces the other states

To show the top 10 states, bar charts seemed pretty feasible to show quantitative difference of executions amongst the top 10 states. I love the dual-axis charts Tableau is capable of producing. To give the conventional bar charts a little bit of a ‘wow’ factor is fascinating. And so, I decided to use a ‘noose’ shape to align with the ‘executions’ theme of the topic.

Being a science student most of my life and keeping gravity in mind, it only made sense to reverse the axis on the bar chart. So the final outcome looked like this:

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 3.37.33 PM

To show that Texas compared to other states by far out spaces the executions performed, I gave the label a subtle color difference by creating conditional label calculations, so that clarity of the point is conveyed rather easily.

To provide context on who is being executed, I used gender icons and provided number of executions for both male and female. This instantly gives the user an idea of how much more are male executions performed than female. The avg. age also provides additional context and adds to the story being told.

The top section alone, couldn’t be used with tiling elements, simply because I had a need to bring forward and backward elements. I could have used a mix of tiling and float but that I am not a fan of. I either have full control over my dashboard or have no control and let Tableau do its thing.

Because with current limitations of Tableau not being able to produce transparent worksheets (I would love to have this), I used a transparent US map .PNG on the top area of the dashboard because I wasn’t planning on giving the user any interactivity capabilities. The subtle addition of an image instantly brings it all together and makes it whole, in my opinion.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 3.38.46 PM

When there is a lot of text going on, I like to shade the text boxes to give it dimension and its own significance. I reduced the transparency so the essence of the US map is not lost and still shows through the text box.

The midsection of the dashboard has a timeline of executions and demographic information of which race, gender and region are being affected. To make this section effective, I used a hover filter action on the line chart to filter information on the right. When I use a combination of a tall layout and action filters (especially when run on hover), I like to use my target sheets within the same ‘Y’ position on the dashboard so it can be effectively used and not be obstructive with scrolling.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 3.39.50 PM

Or I use it when the target sheet is right below the source sheet, so scrolling will still allow target values to be seen by the user. Because my dashboard is narrow, I couldn’t fit methods of execution on the right with other demographics, so I chose to add it in the tooltip which made intuitive sense as it conveys which methods of execution together formed that data point. The year callout, I thought was necessary on this section because I used a hover action filter. So hovering the mouse away means, the user wouldn’t know which year’s data is being displayed on the right grid.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 3.40.05 PM

For the last part, I wanted to show that ‘Lethal Injection’ has been the dominant method of executions since the early 90s. Same conditional label idea went in here too to draw the attention of the user. I used a dual axis approach on the ‘methods of executions’ worksheet because I wanted to overlay the method shapes on circles to give it structure and uniformity in design.

The highlight action on this sheet affects the stacked bar chart underneath it that shows which methods have been used in Texas Vs. other states. Callout text on this section also helps give additional and quick context to the story being told.

I chose a tall layout because, each sub-section on this visualization tells a different story and a taller layout helps retain each section’s significance even when it stands alone. Also, usability is easier when scrolling up and down versus left and right.

Although a sad topic, I overly enjoyed creating this piece of work for MakeoverMonday because I learnt a lot about design, placement of elements, action filters and overall appeal of a visualization by still keeping in mind a result oriented focus.

It did take me a little more than an hour but the overall learning, contentment and exposure to novelty by far outweighs limiting myself to an hour. Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed creating! As always if you have feedback and/or questions, please let me know in the comments below.

Click here to see an interactive version of this entry

2 thoughts on “Dashboard Design Process – #MakeoverMonday

  1. vizchic

    Hey Pooja,

    Thank you for writing this blog! Firstly, your viz is simply stunning. I love your composition, choice of colour and attention to detail. Reading through the step by step thought process of why you’ve chosen each element, it makes so much sense how the viz ends up being such a work of art, and incredibly informative.

    Keep up the incredible work, we’re lucky to have people like you in the community who are so willing to share their expertise.


  2. Pooja Gandhi

    Thanks the compliments Fi and thanks for taking the time to read! I agree, we have a great community and I am so glad technology has made it easier to connect with people across the globe with much ease. Learning happens everyday! 🙂

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