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Website Operational Dashboard

by Alexander 'Sandy' Chiang, Research Director, Dashboard InsightMonday, July 11, 2011


Click the image to enlarge

This website operational dashboard shows the performance metrics and key performance indicators required to operate a website. It should be noted that every website has its own visiting patterns and bench marks; trying to compare these measures with industry averages may not be appropriate. This data is fictitious but the metrics are very real. In fact, these are the types of measures I look at on a daily basis for Dashboard Insight.

Many of you will be familiar with the majority of the website metrics. For those of you who are not, I recommend doing some quick searches on measures such as bounce rate, average time on site and such to get a feel of what these metrics can tell you.
In this dashboard review, I want to discuss the following:

  • Comparing the days of the week
  • Aligning activities to metrics
  • Applied dashboard design and data visualization

Comparing the Days of the Week

Most business or technically oriented resource websites are visited on working days.  In addition, you will find a pattern where the visitors peak on Wednesday and decrease by Friday. This is not surprising considering how most people start the week off slow, peak at productivity by Wednesday, and long for the weekend afterwards. The line chart at the bottom left of the dashboard, entitled Total 6 Week Rolling Trend, shows this pattern very clearly. This dashboard breaks up the comparison by the day of the week and how each day performs against historical averages.

Linking Actions to Metrics

The most critical part with any operational dashboard is being able clearly see what activities have contributed to the KPIs and PIs.  This gives an idea of what activities have a positive impact and which have a negative impact.  More importantly, the dashboard should clearly state what future activities will occur.  In other words, you should be able to see what has happened, what is currently happening and what will happen with your operational dashboards.

Applied Dashboard Design and Data Visualization

The dashboard contains a lot of data.  Trying to squeeze it all in may seem like bad practice, but having to drill down isn’t necessarily a good solution either. It’s about finding a balance and this dashboard accomplishes that.

  • The large amount of data forces the use of a small color palette with neutral tones. A large color palette would force the user to make more linkages between colors and data, making the dashboard harder to read.
  • Two bars are often compared side-by-side; however, showing them on top of each other makes it easier to see if a value is below or above target.  The Unique Visitors by Day of Week visualization demonstrates this.
  • The Bounce Rate and Avg. Time on Site do not show an upwards trend arrow.  By removing the extra clutter of up arrows, the down arrows are highlighted, and the reader will understand that the rows without up arrows are trending upwards.

 About Dundas Dashboard

Dundas Dashboard, created by Dundas Data Visualization Inc., gave me a lot of flexibility in terms of styling and visualizations to choose from to make this dashboard. As for data sources, I used MS SQL in conjunction with Excel. From what I understand, there is a Google Analytics add-on as well. There’s a free online version that has predefined measures and dashboards for you to play with.  Go ahead and try it out! For more information on Dundas Dashboard, go to www.dundas.com.

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Mark Wevers said:

"The Bounce Rate and Avg. Time on Site do not show an upwards trend arrow. By removing the extra clutter of up arrows, the down arrows are highlighted, and the reader will understand that the rows without up arrows are trending upwards."

I would tend to apply this to the "Google Keyword Search Rankings" chart as well.

Alexander 'Sandy' Chiang said:

That's a valid point Mark. My intent was to give a 'billboard top 100' feel to the rankings. I agree that I could have removed the green arrows or even better yet, I could have just shown the change in rankings and color coded the value accordingly. I typically find a dashboard needs to go through a few iterations to get it 'right.'

Zach Gemignani said:

Nice clean dashboard. I think there is still opportunity to simplify by reducing redundant information. In particular, the "Unique Visitors by Day of the Week Performance" chart in the lower left seems like it could be incorporated into the central chart at the top. Perhaps the % change values could just sit under the columns. The sparklines also overlap with the total trend at the bottom and could be presented in a more unified way.

Alexander 'Sandy' Chiang said:

@Zach - you're right, the percentage change could have been put underneath the bar chart. However, I wanted to show how a particular day was changing every week so I can monitor how my readers with the Monday blahs or the Friday weekend anxiety are doing. I felt the single value percentage change would complement the trend nicely.

I was considering doing time cycles in the bar chart to get that feeling but realized I lose the overall trend in the process.

Thanks for the feedback!

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