4 Easy Steps to Make Power BI Look Good (part 1)
Updated: Mar 21, 2022
Looking for ways to make your Power BI dashboard look good? Here are some guidelines to follow:
Look for Inspiration
Pick a Color Theme
Tell a Story
1. Look for Inspiration
Pablo Picasso says "good artists copy, great artists steal". While Power BI developers may not be artists in the traditional since, we certainly have a message to convey and a canvas to "paint" that message on. By simply searching for the search term "great data dashboards", we can get an idea of what currently exists out there. Now I will say that a lot of what you'll get are massively complex dashboards; don't get discouraged! I would even argue a lot of the results are too complicated. Point number 2 down below is to start simple. In my opinion the king of simple dashboards is none other than Google. Try looking at some Google Trends dashboards for inspiration. For an in-depth analysis on their dashboards, check out my blog post on Design Tips.
2. Start Simple
Rome wasn't built in one day. So as much as your boss/client wants their dashboard ASAP, a dashboard worth its salt is going to take time. In fact, starting out using Power BI may be too much. Try drawing your ideas on a piece of paper first. Identity the top 3 most important data points. Draw those where you think they should go. Why three? Humans are used to things that come in three's. Low, medium, High. Three course meals. Three movements in a concerto... Perhaps things in three's are easily remembered. Of course, you are free to choose more or less than three. It all depends on the purpose of dashboard, but 3 is a good number to start out with - followed by supporting visuals for each data point.
3. Pick a Color Theme
The point here is to naturally guide the consumers eyes to the important bits of your dashboard. When starting out, it may be a good idea to start with a gray scale color palette. The 3 main data points you identified in step 2 above can then be colored in (or visually distinctive). Challenge yourself to use as few colors as possible. If your company has a color theme, reach out to your marketing department - they will be happy to provide you with a color them palette with hex codes and all.
TIP: Try picking just 3 colors to start out with. Follow the 60-30-10 rule outlined in this video here:
4. Tell a Story
A good dashboard doesn't just show data points; it tells a story. Take for example:
What does this mean? What does it tell us? Not much. Sure it's a big number, but it could be good or bad. At the end of the day we have no idea. How can we improve this? Adding variance is a quick an easy way to tell a story.
This is only a small adjustment yet it carries a powerful message. The user will naturally understand, "oh shit, our sales are down by $14M and now we are only at $3M!". You do not need a fancy/complicated graph to communicate this. I'll repeat that: You do not need a fancy/complicated graph to communicate this. Remember, a good story is one that is easily remembered.
TIP: Keep in mind your audience as well. For the above example, showing that the company is down by $14M may be good information. But if it's for an executive board presentation your client may not want to highlight that data point.
In part 2, I will discuss specific, technical things you can do to make your Power BI dashboard feel more professional.