When you log in to our software, we want to make sure you’re able to see what’s going on regarding your workload easily. In many cases, we can make that happen by using what we call dashboards. Think of it as a starting page that gives you a snapshot of alerts, statuses, and other data relevant to the work you do in OpenInvoice, Field Ticket, Run Ticket, etc. The dashboard’s main functionality is to help users get to their most important tasks easily and quickly.
There are a few things to consider when designing dashboards for optimal usability:
What to show
It’s simple. Dashboards show important information like statuses, updates, alerts, and timelines that help the user understand what’s happening, what’s already happened, and what needs immediate attention.
Every user has different needs at different times. A dashboard should accommodate the context of each user, and that’s where things get tricky. We need to create flexible dashboard layouts that allow for progressive disclosure of information.
How to show it
Think about your car’s dashboard. Engine operating temperature is a crucial data point. But the gauge on (most) car dashes doesn’t get into an exact measurement of degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, it gives a visually simple, but useful indicator of normal operating range so the driver can understand what’s going on. When the engine goes above that range for too long, the notifications get a little more urgent looking. A speedometer, however, needs to be specific and is largely more important than a temperature reading. That gauge provides real-time, granular information about exactly how fast the vehicle is traveling. And it uses a lot more space to do it. Other indicators, like an oil pressure sensor or check engine light, simply turn on to let you know it’s time to pop the hood or plug in some diagnostics.
Like in the car, software dashboards need to follow the same rationale:
- Allow for quick reads of data
- Give space and prominence to what’s important
- Make it easy/obvious to drill down to details when necessary
Where to show it
Dashboard information is no good if users have to hunt for it. That’s where some consistency and content prioritization comes into play. For example, we know from research that people scan pages within our apps from top to bottom, left to right. Logic would tell us that the most important information should be placed in the general area of the page where people first look (top left). But also within the context of what else is being done on the screen.
The science behind grouping content is crucial. To help users make sense of the screen we want to group similar items. For example, there’s no sense placing notifications regarding the approval status of an invoice in a section of the site devoted to account preferences.
Now’s a great time to mention that the design of our dashboards and notifications need to be driven by our users’ input. If you have ideas for what you need in a dashboard layout and how you like to visualize information within oil and gas accounting software, please get in touch with us at here. We’d love to talk.