10. Identifying Issues on a Dashboard


It’s now time to apply the visualization skills you’ve learned in this course by considering a business dashboard and identifying the visual issues in it.

To explore more Kubicle data literacy subjects, please refer to our full library.


  1. Lesson Goal (00:16)

    The goal of this lesson is to identify the issues with a typical business dashboard.

  2. How to Identify the Issues (00:23)

    The best way to analyze a dashboard is to look at it for a few minutes, and identify any issues where the visual language hierarchy is violated, and how those violations can be fixed. You can write these observations down somewhere to ensure you remember them.

  3. Issues on Our Dashboard (02:01)

    The dashboard we consider displays several issues:


    • The line chart uses full numeric labels instead of simplifying to thousands of dollars, and uses gradient instead of color to distinguish between lines

    • The chart in the bottom left uses shapes unnecessarily, it uses the percentage symbol unnecessarily in data labels and includes too many labels generally. The chart also uses both shape and size, when the message could be conveyed using size. It also uses shapes that are reused elsewhere on the dashboard.

    • In the top right chart, color is used unnecessarily to denote departments that are labeled elsewhere. One of the colors used is also used on another chart. The chart also uses shapes in a context where color would work better.

    • The map has fairly spread out points, so it may make sense to divide the data into regions. There is also one very large data point, so it would be better to cap the size of data points to make the other points slightly more visible.

    • The legends include numeric labels that are not simplified, a shape legend that could refer to several different visualizations, colors that are reused across different visualizations, and the use of a red-green gradient.



In this course, we've analyzed three different case studies and learned how you can create effective visualizations using the visual language hierarchy. We're now ready to apply those skills.

Our goal in this lesson is to identify the issues with a typical business dashboard.

Let's take a look at the dashboard we're going to analyze.

You'll find a copy of this dashboard in the lesson files below the video. You should take a few minutes to study the dashboard and identify issues with it based on what we've learned about using the traits of the visual language hierarchy.

There are at least 12 issues on the dashboard, but if you find some extras, that's great too.

When you're ready, just continue to see the answers.

Let's look at some of the key issues we've covered that show up on this dash.

We'll start in the line chart on the top left. Here you can simplify the data labels down to thousands of dollars or maybe even millions. Also it's better to use colors and not gradients for the distinct years. Now let's move to the chart on the bottom left. Here we don't need different shapes to distinguish the different years because you have the years in the row label. You can also remove the percentages from the row labels because that's already in the chart title. You might even want to get rid of the decimal points in the percentages.

This chart has too many labels.

You might wanna consider just having labels for the men and max of each year. Also using shape and size is hard to work with. It's better if you just use lines or bars in this case.

The shapes use in this chart are also used for containers in the top right chart, which means the shapes have two different meanings on the same dashboard. If we move to the top right chart, you don't need to use colors for each of the departments because you have that in each of the column headings. Furthermore, the blue used here is also used on the line chart with a different meaning. Also this chart uses shapes to denote different containers, but it would be better to use color for this. Looking at the top half of the legends now, it would be better to simplify the labels for the circles down to something like millions of dollars. Also, we don't know if the circle size in this legend corresponds to something in the bottom left chart, the top right chart, or the bottom right chart, because all of them use circles in different ways. It's possible it applies to all three, but that should be made clear. Looking at the map, the points are spread out. So you may consider splitting the state into regions to get a better look at all the data elements. Also, you have this one large data point which skews all the other values, so you might want to cap the maximum size of the circles. Finally, if we look at the bottom half of the legends, we're using the same color for departments, and for some of the containers, and we're using red and green in the container legend, which we should avoid.

This concludes our look at this dashboard.

Don't worry if you miss some of the issues we identified here, as you'll notice issues more with more practice. This also brings us to the end of our course on applying visualization skills.

In this course, we first studied maps, and learned how to use them correctly, including how to handle positive and negative numbers.

We then considered a stacked bar chart and learned how we could create an improved visual that was better at answering relevant questions for us. Finally, we considered a table of data, and learned how to transform it into something much better. Visualization is a key skill in business, and understanding the visual language hierarchy will help you apply these skills.

After completing this course, you'll be able to understand how to create more effective business visualizations.