From email management systems to analytics applications, we studied four of the most popular applications on the web to find dashboard examples that show what separates a confusing, mediocre dashboard from something truly great.
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Founded in 2001, MailChimp has grown into one of the web’s most popular email marketing services. Known for its simple approach to email marketing, MailChimp uses a clean and straightforward dashboard that puts user completely in control.
The navigational bar is on the left side of the dashboard, allowing users to select from five options: Campaigns, Lists, Reports, Autoresponders, and Search. All of the options brings up its own subpage, with tabbed navigation in the top section.
Above the five options is a user profile with alerts tallied beside the user’s name to make keeping up with campaigns and account changes simple. In the right section, there’s a graph showing open rates or performance and a list of active campaigns.
MailChimp may not be the most powerful email app, but its dashboard is certainly one of the cleanest. Designed for simple, stress-free operation, it’s no wonder this service has become one of the most popular on the Internet for email marketers.
Designing a dashboard for an analytics application is definitely challenging. Since every user is likely going to need to access different data, knowing which metrics to list on the dashboard can be especially complex to design.
Google Analytics avoids this problem by letting users customize their dashboard and monitor any metrics they’re interested in. From revenue to clickthrough rate, every metrics that Google Analytics tracks can appear on the dashboard.
This makes Google Analytics, which is an incredibly powerful application, suitable for everyone from small business owners to corporate marketing departments. In one account, users can create up to 20 different customized dashboards.
Since each dashboard can hold up to 12 different widgets – ranging from graphs to numerical listings and more – there’s a huge amount of customizability. This makes even the most complicated data easy for users to access and understand.
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Used by millions of bloggers around the world, WordPress is one of the web’s most influential content management systems. It’s also one of the easiest to use, boasting a dashboard that even the most technologically unfamiliar user can interact with.
Designed to quickly show bloggers their key metrics, the WordPress dashboard is built for digesting data. At the top of the dashboard is a blog’s real time statistics – numbers like the amount of Posts, Pages, Categories, and Tags that exist.
To the right, there’s the Discussion section, which catalogs new comments and lists them in an action-based order. In the top bar, users can access basic navigation and view their website’s live design.
Like most other web apps, WordPress has its primary navigation bar on the left side of the page. The navigation bar has stylish dropdown menus that make customizing a website and adding new content a simple, natural process.
While its simple design makes running huge websites with thousands of pages quite a struggle, WordPress’s user-friendly interface is perfect for small blogs. For a CMS that’s entirely free, having such a stylish user interface is quite a feat indeed.
While Facebook’s regular user interface has been criticized by designers for its focus on making ads more visible, the company’s commercial dashboard for advertisers is a fantastic example of user-friendly yet flexible design.
Facebook Ads splits its dashboard into three sections: an informational panel that’s situated in the top right of the page, a list of campaigns and ads in the bottom right, and a navigational bar in the far left column.
Each campaign includes individual ads that appear in dropdown cells if users click to learn more information. The columns are easy to customize, full of relevant data for advertisers, and simple enough that advertisers can learn about their campaign performance with nothing more than a quick glance.
On the left side, there’s a variety of options for power users: features like conversion tracking, power editor, and more. The Facebook Ads dashboard has a great balance of power features and a user-friendly, natural interface.
Most of Facebook Ads’ stylish dashboard is made possible thanks to jQuery. Learn how to create your own interface using jQuery by enrolling in our Interface Design in JQuery course.
Designing great dashboards
The three dashboards profiled above each serve very different purposes. One is an email marketing platform, another is a massively detailed analytics application, and the last is an online ad purchasing platform.
While each dashboard serves a completely different purpose, they share a variety of common features. One of these is a left-column navigation bar, while another is the use of tables and widgets to arrange important data on the page.
Beyond the design features, however, they share one common characteristic that’s found in all great dashboards: a focus on making complicated information easy to locate, digest, and understand.
Facebook Ads does this by making daily spending, total activity, and results its most important metrics. Google Analytics does it by letting users choose what they want to monitor. MailChimp does it by listing alerts to give users a breakdown of activity.
The key to great dashboard design is making data easy to understand. The quicker users can access their KPIs after logging in to your application, the more powerful your dashboard is in helping them achieve their goals.
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Learn more about designing great dashboards
Whether you’re building the next big online marketing application or a simple tool to help users keep track of their day-to-day tasks, being able to build a dashboard that works can be the difference between success and failure.
Learn more about how to design great dashboards and user interfaces with our blog post on UI design patterns. From breadcrumbs to easy registration, it covers the top user interface design patterns used by some of the Internet’s biggest companies.