I have finally created my own version of the Student Performance Dashboard that contestants in the 2012 Perceptual Edge Dashboard Design competition were asked to create. I don’t feel that I should judge the efforts of others unless I’m willing to submit my own work for scrutiny as well. This version along with those created by the two winners will appear in the second edition of Information Dashboard Design.
Examine this dashboard on your own for a few minutes. Before reading further, examine each measure and the way it’s expressed, including the context. Look at each component, both on its own and in relation to the whole. Consider the overall visual design: how it draws you into the information and draws your eyes to what’s important.
Hopefully, the reasons for each of my design choices became clear as you examined it closely. You may have noticed that I incorporated several of the ideas that were exhibited by dashboards that were submitted to the competition, especially the two winning solutions. Yes, I cheated, and for this reason I didn’t give myself an award. Here are a few of the good qualities of this dashboard that were present in others as well:
- All of the information is present.
- It is easy to spot the students who are most in need of attention.
- The organization is clear.
- The students that most need attention are clearly featured, using simple blue icons.
- Graphics have been used to support efficient scanning of the information.
- Everything about a student can be seen by scanning across a single row.
- Students can be easily compared by scanning down the columns.
- Even though there is a great deal of information, little training would be required to learn how to interpret this dashboard.
- The information has been displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
- It is scalable in that more or fewer students could be accommodated by simply adding or removing rows.
Now let’s consider a few ways that this design succeeds where others fell short.
- Student-level and class-level information has been well integrated.
- The sparklines are more informative.
- It is easier to see time-based attendance patterns (absences and tardies).
By placing class-level summaries below related student-level information, the relationship between them is clearly shown and comparisons can be easily made.
The sparklines are a variation of a version of Edward Tufte’s space-efficient invention, which I call bandlines, that I introduced in the current edition of the Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter in an article titled, “Introducing Bandlines: Sparklines Enriched with Information about Magnitude and Distribution.” In this case, I’ve used horizontal bands of color to represent ranges of scores that correspond to grades A, B, C, D, and F. With this design, I was able to provide the teacher with a quick glimpse of historical student achievement that reveals not only patterns and trends but also information about the magnitudes and variability of values. Usually, bandlines use bands of color to represent information about how a measure is quantitatively distributed based on quartiles, similar to a box plot. As such, it is adaptable to a broad range of measures.
To show historical attendance information, I designed a display that was similar to the winning solution by Jason Lockwood, but is a little easier to perceive and comprehend at a glance.
I hope you can appreciate the design choices that I made to produce this dashboard and understand how they support performance monitoring. I have no illusion that this version of the Student Performance Dashboard is perfect. I have never designed anything that I couldn’t improve later. As new ideas come to mind, several of which will no doubt come from you, I’ll continue to improve this dashboard with each new printing of the book. Despite the evolutionary nature of design—time is a great teacher—I’m confident that this dashboard could be used by teachers to help their students achieve their best.