The concept of the user interface (UI) originated in the field of industrial design and refers to the space where the user interacts with the machine. UI easily extends to the field of computer systems and analytic tools. The term dashboard, typically referring to a control panel in an automobile, is widely used in a business reporting context to indicate the UI for visual charts and reports that managers use to monitor the performance of their business.
Unfortunately, the success of the dashboard concept may have become its own enemy. Report designers often take the concept too literally and present results in the form of gauges, dials, and other objects suitable to the analog of the mechanical world of a car control panel but completely irrelevant in the digital information world.
The borrowed concept of a control panel dashboard not only interferes with developing efficient presentation of visual information, it also limits understanding of richness in display of visual analytics. A car dashboard is primarily a passive display of key control metrics—fuel level, engine temperature, speed; an information dashboard provides the opportunity to interact with the information—to slice and dice, to journey through the analysis to follow results to root cause with a few mouse-clicks.
When our car dashboard signals a problem, most of us get out of our car and open the hood, then stand by the side of the road scratching ...