Power BI dashboard design – Where Do I Start?

Power BI dashboard design – Where Do I Start?

Want to know where to start with Power BI dashboard design?

We utilise Power BI across a range of clients to make reporting simple. With a user-friendly interface and easily customisable dashboards, it’s the perfect tool for a range of data management tasks.

In this article we’re answering your questions on the perfect Power BI dashboard design, to help you craft the best dashboard for your organisation.

Rule 101 of Power BI dashboard design

Before designing and building a report, it is imperative that any business or technical user thoroughly investigate and understand the business problem.  

This involves analysing available information, contemplating ways in which additional information might support new insights, and determining a skeleton design for initial review.  

This must all be supported by making data available to help model new approaches to problem-solving.  Understanding Key Performance Indicators is often a good place to start.

You need a strategy before you begin.

gray laptop computer

Creating your Power BI dashboard – key design principles

Once we have defined the business problem and designed a skeleton dashboard, we need to build our dashboard.  

Here are some of the design principles that every Power BI user should consider:

  • Answer the most frequently asked business questions at a glance
  • Solve a specific problem for your audience
  • Apply the “Five Second” Rule, which means ensuring the dashboard provides all the relevant information and insight to the user in less than five seconds. 
  • Ensure you use a fixed canvas size, and divide this canvas up into multiple segments.
  • Place the most important indicators and noteworthy information on the top segment. 
  • Showcase important details such as trend analysis and performance comparisons in the middle segment, and finish with general or background information in the bottom segment.
  • Try to use the approach of “Minimalism – Less Is more”, whereby each dashboard should not contain more than 5 to 9 visuals.  
  • Choose data visuals that make slicing and dicing of information intuitive; line charts are often used for showcasing data patterns and bar charts help compare data in the same category.

FUN FACT: Cognitive Psychology tells us that the human brain can only comprehend around seven images at any one time therefore this helps guide us as to the number of items that need to be seen on the Dashboard.  

person using MacBook Pro

Visualisation – Dashboard tips and tricks

A key presentation skill required for building visuals is following a Z-format layout so that users can readily interpret the dashboard story.  It is important to ensure that visuals are horizontally and vertically aligned so that they can be accurately compared (and don’t create any misleading optical illusions).  

We also need to consider cosmetics for readability – shorten large numbers, use standard colours throughout the dashboard to represent specific information (e.g., Sales, Products, Locations) and use titles, axis labels and legends where appropriate. 

Power BI dashboard design engagement tips

A critical principle every dashboard needs to achieve is keeping the users engaged.  

To achieve this goal, it’s important to model the data in the right way, so that PowerBI’s powerful filtering features can allow users to analyse data, and customise the dashboard according to their information requirements.  

PowerBI has many features that enable designers to keep users engaged, simplifying navigation, adding bookmarks and buttons, providing options to slice customised information, and pinning key visuals to user-created dashboards.

Once you are confident you have met these design principles, you are off and running on building and testing your dashboard.  It can be an exhilarating feeling when your dashboards are finally published to your end-users, and new insights are established.

man using MacBook

Where can I find more information?

There are many information sources that will enable users to learn how to use PowerBI to build beautifully designed dashboards.  

  • PowerBI documentation – a reference library from Microsoft for PowerBI.
  • Microsoft learn – an environment that provides step-by-step education supporting lab exercises to prepare for Microsoft Certifications.
  • Community.powerbi.com – an open community of users who share information, provide specific question and answer forums, access to updates and general information.
  • DAX.Guide which provides information on PowerBI’s powerful programming language (Data Analysis eXpression).
  • Udemy, Coursera, EDX and LinkedIn Learning are also great places to study and prepare for Microsoft Certifications.