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biozinc

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Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #1 
Hi All. I'm currently looking for a dashboard solution for a particular aspect of my organisation. Having recently read a pile of Tufte/Few books, I spent a few weeks sketching ideas down on paper. Right now, I've got a rough design, and am looking for a vendor to help us implement it.

A problem I've encountered is that, in my experience so far, companies fall into two distinct categories:

The first are software vendors. They build the most feature rich design tool which allow a user to do WYSWYG design themselves, and for the user of the dashboard to drill down, re-arrange and essentially do what they like with the visuals. Panopticon is a good example in this category. The resulting dashboards are often too raw: they are good tools to data analysts, but not optimised for "single screen/single glance" viewing. The range of what you can do is also quite limited by the "library" of visualizations available. Anything custom is not easy to achieve.

The second are design houses looking to provide the full solution. They look to provide both the consulting/design work and implementation. The results are often way more impressive (and expensive), and streamlined for data consumption. They are almost always happy to do bespoke development. However, having spoken to a few (such as Juice Analytic), they often feel strongly about playing a major role in dashboard design process.

So here's my dilemma: I know the business area quite well, and have a good view on what the audience of the dashboard need to see. Do I take full creative control, design something, and see how close I get get to it with a software vendor, or do I give up a lot of control and work with a design house?

Or, are there companies I haven't spoken to yet that fills the gap, that would largely use my design, but do bespoke development? I'd really appreciate hearing some of your thoughts and especially first hand experiences/recommendations.

Thanks.
jlbriggs

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Posts: 200
Reply with quote  #2 
If you know what you want and you have the knowledge of the design concepts that are relevant to quality data display, the one thing I can say is that you should not give up control of this to a design house that does not want to listen to you.

Any designer should feel obligated to push a client in the direction they feel is best suited for the application, and should stress a focus on best practice in these matters.
But if you have done the legwork, and know what you need, you shouldn't allow a designer to ignore your requirements.

Everything will depend on how you are looking to implement your dashboards of course.   Web based, stand alone desktop software, Excel, etc.
If you know what you want implemented, and how you want it layed out and styled, you may be better off finding a company or freelance developer who can simply provide the technical development as opposed to one offering data analytics services.

Either way, based on the posts and examples I have seen at Juice, I wouldn't be giving my business to them.

FWIW

{Edit: as far as my experience in this area, I currently do a fair amount of work in-house at my company implementing web-based dahsboards and metrics reporting solutions using various javascript based visualization engines and charting libraries.}
sfew

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Reply with quote  #3 
On the other hand, you don't want to work with an outside consulting service that simply does what you want without reviewing your designs and suggesting improvements. If they're good designers, they'll have more experience than you, so you'll want to listen to them.

If I provided dashboard development services in addition to design services, I would never agree to implement a client's designs if they conflicted with the practices that I know work. I would take the time to explain why they wouldn't work as designed and to offer improved alternatives. Good service organizations should never agree to to implement inadequate designs. Their reputation is based on the work that they produce.

If you've done a good job of assessing your requirements and developing a design that is based on thoughtful practices (not just an emulation of the stupid dashboards that you find on most vendor sites), however, a good outside design and development service should be able to review your requirements and proposed design and then respond either with an endorsement of your design or with proposed improvements within a short time. If the outside service wants to ignore your work and start from scratch, you should politely respond "No thanks."


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Stephen Few
jlbriggs

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Posts: 200
Reply with quote  #4 
Stephen - that is the point that I was trying to make, however inadequately :)


biozinc

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Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #5 
@sfew and jibriggs: thanks for the input. It sounds like it's worth gauging a design house by their approach: if they want to dominate, back away; if they work with what you already got, it is probably worth listening to what they have to say?

Guess here's the million dollar question: whom should I be speaking to? I'm quite firm that we want a dashboard, not a visual data analytics tool (I recall another thread where the distinction was made, and different software address each one better). It seems something like Tableau or Panopticon is analysis focused. Who builds good dashboards?
sfew

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Posts: 838
Reply with quote  #6 
Sorry for the long delay in responding. The answer to your question, "Who builds good dashboards?", depends on what you mean by a dashboard. I define the term strictly as a single-page information display that a person or group with a particular set of objectives uses to rapidly monitor what's going on. In other words, it is used for monitoring purposes, to maintain situation awareness. As defined by most software vendors, however, the term dashboard tends to mean any display that includes more than a single chart. The problem with this definition is that it is too broad to be meaningful. Performance monitoring displays must be designed quite differently, for instance, than multi-chart displays that are used for data exploration and analysis.

So...tell me what you want to do with a dashboard and I'll give you my opinion about the products that do it well.

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Stephen Few
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