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Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data [Paperback]

Stephen Few
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Feb 2006

Dashboards have become popular in recent years as uniquely powerful tools for communicating important information at a glance. Although dashboards are potentially powerful, this potential is rarely realized. The greatest display technology in the world won't solve this if you fail to use effective visual design. And if a dashboard fails to tell you precisely what you need to know in an instant, you'll never use it, even if it's filled with cute gauges, meters, and traffic lights. Don't let your investment in dashboard technology go to waste.

This book will teach you the visual design skills you need to create dashboards that communicate clearly, rapidly, and compellingly. Information Dashboard Design will explain how to:

  • Avoid the thirteen mistakes common to dashboard design
  • Provide viewers with the information they need quickly and clearly
  • Apply what we now know about visual perception to the visual presentation of information
  • Minimize distractions, cliches, and unnecessary embellishments that create confusion
  • Organize business information to support meaning and usability
  • Create an aesthetically pleasing viewing experience
  • Maintain consistency of design to provide accurate interpretation
  • Optimize the power of dashboard technology by pairing it with visual effectiveness

Stephen Few has over 20 years of experience as an IT innovator, consultant, and educator. As Principal of the consultancy Perceptual Edge, Stephen focuses on data visualization for analyzing and communicating quantitative business information. He provides consulting and training services, speaks frequently at conferences, and teaches in the MBA program at the University of California in Berkeley. He is also the author of Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten. Visit his website at www.perceptualedge.com.



Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (3 Feb 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596100167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596100162
  • Product Dimensions: 25.6 x 21.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Publisher

Dashboards have become popular in recent years as uniquely powerful tools for communicating important information at a glance. This book will teach you the visual design skills you need to create dashboards that communicate clearly, rapidly, and compellingly. The greatest display technology in the world won't solve this if you fail to use effective visual design. And if a dashboard fails to tell you precisely what you need to know in an instant, you'll never use it, even if it's filled with cute gauges, meters, and traffic lights. Don't let your investment in dashboard technology go to waste.

About the Author

Stephen Few has over 20 years of experience as an innovator, consultant, and educator in the fields of business intelligence (a.k.a. data warehousing and decision support) and information design. Through his company, Perceptual Edge, he focuses on the effective analysis and presentation quantitative business information. Stephen is recognized as a world leader in the field of data visualization. He teaches regularly at conferences such as those presented by The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) and DCI, and also in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at U. C. Berkeley. He is also the author of the book "Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten" (Analytics Press).


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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than you think 30 Mar 2006
By AndyH
Format:Paperback
This book is something different from O'Reilly. Usually, you'd expect one of their books to plumb technical depths in order to supply the most detailed and complete reference tool for the application in question. As such, sometimes the books themselves can become quite difficult to read, and almost impenetrable for newcomers.
I'm glad to report that this book is not like that. Few writes with a casual tone, yet you are consciously aware that he is an expert in his field and he provides information at a steady rate, rather than overwhelming you with information. With intelligent use of figures and well planned chapters, this is a definitive reference tool for those who need to present data in graphical formats. So often when people produce graphs and charts, they end up like the nightmare Powerpoint presentation from Hell. Few gives practical advice on human perception as well as the relationship between information and visualisation that will truly help you to produce meaningful and appreciated dashboards, rather than the complex and downright ugly solutions that the author uses to show the worst examples.
If you are getting into Dashboard design, then this should be your primary purchase. If you produce graphical reports of any kind then this book is definitely worth a read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insights 29 Mar 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book and will change the way you look at how data is presented. I have struggled in the past trying to understand reports presented to me because of their poor design. The author offers a good mix of theory and practical examples, giving examples of poorly designed reports, pointing out their deficiencies and suggesting a better way of doing it. Overall it is a quick to read book that provides valuable insight.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written, Well Presented 4 Jan 2008
Format:Paperback
Stephen Few nods more than a little to Edward Tufte when it comes to approaches to visual and information design, and this book is both a highly informative and pleasant read for that. While not quite in the same league as one of Tufte's works, Information Dashboard Design is refreshingly devoid of waffle and mere personal opinion. The design principles he identifies are not hard to grasp, and the theory and rationale for them is very well argued and presented. Few's invention of the "bullet graph" also ensures his place alongside Tufte in the field of information design.

We can only hope that his ideas will now catch on, and that the awful drek that infests the vast majority of dashboard designs by even the largest of vendors will be swept away forever. If I never see another big shiny gauge again, it will be too soon.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - a must for designing dashboards 8 Oct 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I agree with the two other reviews that I read prior to posting. This is a great book that is well written. The example screen shots really show you the difference that can be made by using good design principles as suggested. If you are doing any dashboard design you need to read this book. Also what was really good was at the end there was just one page acknowledgeing other major authors in the area and suggesting their texts as well. This was really useful as rather than wade through all the references it gave you a snapshot of who Mr. Few thought were the best in his field. Brilliant. Can't recommend it enough.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read. Sensible advice. 1 Sep 2008
Format:Paperback
I'm about half-way through as I write this review but I am already very impressed with this book. Few has an easy-to-read style that's not full of fluff or pompous nonsense, and he provides sensible advise for producing effective designs.

The book begins by defining the term "information dashboard": the definition is suitably broad that you may realise that solutions you've build before would fit in and would therefore have benefited from the design advice given in the book. To make his points about poor design, Few then uses a selection of examples found on the web. Many of these are eye catching and graphically pleasing - but the commentary makes you appreciate the problems each exhibits. In the middle of the book, Few describes accepted scientific theories about human vision, perception and cognition that we should take into account in our designs - and these generally support the arguments that the example dashboards used earlier in the book were poor designs in one way or another. Later in the book (and I have not read these chapters yet), Few provides practical advice that can be applied in dashboard design. I am expecting these to be almost self-evident by the time I get there thanks to the Background Few has provided me with. But I am still looking forward to reading them nonetheless.

This book is in no way biased towards any display technology, user interface technology or programming technology and is therefore applicable whether you are producing a single-user desktop application, a multi-user, multi-screen information wall (as you've seen in pictures of the stock exchange) or even if you are producing printed reports.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, recommend for dashboard builders 28 April 2011
By J. Webb
Format:Paperback
Beautifully presented and illustrated, the author guides you through common mistakes in information dashboard design before highlighting how these may have been improved upon by demonstrating best use of display options, be it the method of graphing or the use of non-data objects. Few discusses key points in relation to how to present information in relation to how human perception works, always striving toward the objective of presenting key facts quickly and efficiently. If you have read "Show Me the Numbers" also by Stephen Few, then you will find much of the content either similar to or a copy of that book, but with some new information added.

Whilst I do think that information dashboard design has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, I do still find examples that demonstrate the negative points Few raises; indeed I find these whilst looking back at some of my previous and current work.

In truth there is very little that the author highlights as new information, rather this is a well thought out and presented collection of best practices. As such, I do not regret buying it, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to others whose work involves the development of information dashboards.

However, if you tend to present tables and graphs as reports instead, then I would suggest "Show Me the Numbers" as a better alternative. Additionally, for a more indepth study into perception and visual information design, works by Edward Tufte or Colin Ware might be of interest. Stephen Few recommends these in his books, and after reading some of their works I can understand why.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely
a lovely read with some plenty of visual examples. Anyone who is designing dashboards should spend some time digesting this material. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. Christopher J. Hopkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars This will improve your presentation totally
This book is a superb summary of the latest thinking in dashboard design.

You probably know a lot of it - that is the beauty of this book. Read more
Published on 16 Dec 2011 by Stuart Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
An Excellent and well written book.

Users say they want dashboards because they think they look good and makes them look important. Read more
Published on 10 May 2011 by Brendan Matthews
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretty obvious stuff.
I wouldn't recommend this book even to people with unlimited amounts of money! Was looking for something on practicality/technicality of dashboard design - this was just a... Read more
Published on 22 Feb 2011 by SupremeDalek
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for anyone who are about to design a dashboard
This book gives easy-to-understand guidelines to dashboard design. What works and what does not. And why your design will or will not work. Read more
Published on 12 Oct 2009 by Jørn Sinkbæk Jacobsen
2.0 out of 5 stars Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of...
Great book, i've enjoyed reading it.
Still lots of material presented in it is already on website of the writer (Stephen Few). I personally expected more from this book.
Published on 30 Jan 2009 by i-lopez
5.0 out of 5 stars Spins your whole understanding of dashboards and charting on its head
If you're currently using pie charts or graphs with lots of colours, you need this book.

If you've developed (or are developing) a digital dashboard that shares at least... Read more
Published on 21 Aug 2007 by Software Developer
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