Jan 22, 2011

Social Dashboards of Web Dashboards? Cut to the business

Website analytics has been an area I have been practicing for over 10 years now, back when this was an active software area of many startup companies (with colorful names like WebsideStory) outdueling each other for the most strking visualizations and most insightful path analyses. Nowadays, I have first found it surprising to see the rise in use of the free but spartan Google Analytics over the more mature and visually robust Webtrends and Omniture (now part of Adobe site catalyst). Those two have gobbled up many of the aforementioned startups.

Lately this month I have stumbled across new developments: software that take Google Analytics output and create new dashboards. One is Unilyzer software for dashboarding social media trends out of your Google Analytics output. The other are actual Google Analytics post-processing apps. I'll bet there are more that post-process in this way. I myself often take "G.A." output and visualize in my favorite dashboard prototyping tool, Spotfire. Tell me ones you know!

How to learn about the best choices for dashboard design, cost aside?
Much has been written over the past two decades about effective display of visual information in dashboards.
The work of Edward Tufte
is foundational, and there are excellent texts like
Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few, reviewed in UX Design.
One can even read about dashboards in other original areas for inspiration: see this
blogger on automobile dashboards

However, don't forget the main purpose of your dashboard should be to drive business decision making. Therefore be business focused. Create the dimensions that matter to your application domain and to your clients. All data miners say that data processing to get clean,insightful KPIs is up to 80 percent of the project. Do not push that off by merely re-displaying the raw feeds. Make sure you get right to the drivers of your business.