When I started educating customers on business intelligence dashboards in the early 2000s, we used a term “eye candy for executives.” This term was coined thanks to the flashy graphics and over the top shiny look and feel for Xcelsius. This emotional effect that Xcelsius has on customers is amazing and to this day I truly enjoy sharing the technology with new customers. This emotional effect that Xcelsius had on businesses helped propel the Xcelsius forward because it simply looked better. The gauge visual control was certainly the most exciting item that every customer wanted. I am guilty as charged for using these controls over the years, but can’t remember the last time I used one in a customer project… and there is a very good reason.
Dashboards provide an appealing user experience to dive into business information. The customers and professionals who deploy dashboards are collectively more educated, thanks to the specialists who have provided guidance on effective methods for communicating quantitative information. When web 2.0 and business intelligence collided there were only a few places consumers could go to for education on visualization for business intelligence. Now there are large communities focused on this topic, just like EverythingXcelsius; Dashboard Insight is my favorite. Though gauges are extremely effective in gaining your attention, it only slows down an you ability to digest the information. Gauges also take up valuable real estate, even when you cut them in half!
So what is the alternative to a gauge? You have a few options:
1. Use a text value- If you create a gauge and can’t figure out what the min and max values should be, delete the gauge immediately. You are best served placing a value or text control on the screen to display the value(s).
Use a bar / combo chart- If you have more than 3 gauges with the same measure and scale, you should replace them with a single bar chart or combination chart. With Xcelsius you also have an interesting vertical bullet chart capable of showing actual/target.
Hopefully if your are researching using gauges for your dashboard this article will help steer you clear of dis-servicing your end user. I would love to hear your opinions on this long lasting Gauge debate.
Ryan Goodman is the Founder of Centigon Solutions, an SAP® software solution partner, that is strategically focused on developing add-on products for use with Xcelsius®. To learn more about him, please visit our Gurus page
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