Visual Acuity for effective dashboard design

Not long ago I mentioned the software company Visual Engineering (makers of VisualAcuity) as one of the few companies that supports the use of Tufte’s sparklines and my bullet graphs on dashboards. As of a few days ago, the folks at Visual Engineering are featuring a sample Sales Management Dashboard on their Web site that was designed to look exactly like the sales dashboard in my book Information Dashboard Design. I supplied them with the data in Excel and they built a working dashboard that not only looks like mine (almost down to the pixel level), but also includes useful details-on-demand functionality to demonstrate more comprehensively how a good dashboard should operate. Some details can be accessed by hovering over specific data points in graphs (for example, the bar on a bullet graph), which causes a small pop-up window to appear with details as text, and a lower level of detail can be easily accessed through drill-down functionality when you spot something in the dashboard’s big picture that needs closer examination.

I can’t comment on the merits of VisualAcuity for dashboard development as a whole, because I’ve never used it, but I can state with confidence that it gives you the visual means to create dashboards that communicate clearly and efficiently, and it provides effective functionality for accessing details when and only when you need them, so they don’t needlessly clutter the dashboard otherwise.

As I’ve stated previously, the software vendors that have demonstrated their ability to design dashboards that support the visual design principles that I teach are Visual Engineering, BonaVista Systems, Corda Technology, and SAS Institute.

Take care,


4 Comments on “Visual Acuity for effective dashboard design”

By T Theobald. December 11th, 2006 at 6:39 am


I am pleased to see the growing number of upstart companies that are rallying around your visual intelligence best practices. I am a little concerned that some vendors may be using BonaVista’s Microcharts SDK to build demonstration dashboards instead of their own OEM solutions.

Any thoughts?


By Stephen Few. December 11th, 2006 at 9:50 am


Do you really think that a BI software vendor would stoop this low? Well, I suppose one might, but I’ve had enough interaction with the vendors that were acknowledged in this blog entry to know that the designs they’ve shown me were created using their own products. I’ll continue to be vigilant and only give credit where credit is due.



By Luis Bender. December 15th, 2006 at 10:24 am


Have you already compared the products from Visual Engineering, BonaVista, Corda and SAS from a cost-benefit point of view?

Best regards,
Luis Bender

By Stephen Few. December 20th, 2006 at 1:55 pm


No, I rarely have the time or the inclination to review products at the depth that would be required to make a cost-benefit comparison. I’m sorry that I can’t help you out with this.