Digital Analytics Dashboards: Best Practices

By Tara Carter

Analytics, Metrics

A good digital analytics dashboard is very exciting to see. Some might consider it a thing of beauty.

It provides a brief snapshot of whatever you’re trying to communicate to your target audience. For some, this might mean a glimpse of all digital activity for the entire company. In other cases, it might mean a snapshot of activity for a specific marketing campaign. Much depends on your viewing audience and how much they can or cannot analyze.

In either case, the goal is to be comprehensive without providing too much information. Adding analytical insight, as well as some context, such as benchmark comparisons and percent toward business goal, is also important. If shared with anyone without direct contact with the information (i.e. anyone outside of analysts, campaign owners or digital leads), it’s important to include insight, recommended next steps or actions, as well as include business impact if recommendations are adopted.

A successful digital dashboard should raise questions and lead to discussions. Inevitably, it should spark deeper dives of data as well as segmentation and comparisons to past performance or other campaigns. Finally, it should pave the way to more informed decisions. If a dashboard does not lead to action, it is not successful.

What digital dashboards shouldn’t be are data tables of key metrics. This provides no insight for any level within an organization. Even if these tables included some month-over-month comparisons and trending, if they don’t lead the organization into data influenced actions, they are worthless.

Commonly, dashboards provide a snapshot without including context against predefined goals. Too often they merely provide numbers without insights or recommendations for action and next steps on how to achieve said goals. And most often they don’t take the leap into including a business impact assessment.

Too frequently the end result of review of a digital dashboard is: Nothing. Decisions are then made without the confidence of being backed by data.

Before designing a digital dashboard, key is to understand who will be viewing it:

Does the group have the ability to analyze digital data?

Do they understand causal factors?

Sometimes the answer to these questions is: A little bit. This group generally consists of campaign owners and digital leads. In these cases, a custom report with tabular data that includes drilldowns would be beneficial, as the group has expertise to interpret and act on numbers.

However, most of the time the answer to these questions is: No. Clearly, a data dump will be of no use to those who need tactical and strategic oriented dashboards. This audience needs a more textual-based dashboard that explains and recommends.

In summary, know your target audience for your digital dashboard. Most commonly, a successful digital dashboard should be visual, measure against goals and provide textual insight (not a repetition of the data in the dashboard, but rather point out what caused the numbers). It should recommend actions and hypothesize the business impact if recommendations are accepted. Remember, the ultimate goal of any digital dashboard is informed action.