Building a slick dashboard

Modified on Mon, 31 Oct 2022 at 06:48 PM

Some tips on creating a high-impact and visually pleasing dashboard, such as this simple climate change "poster":

This guide assumes you already have your data and workflow set up, and are familiar with the basics of Omniscope workflows and the blue Report blocks. For example:

1. Message

A high-impact dashboard should have a simple message. Don't stuff it with lots of charts. One or two charts conveying a simple and clear message are all you need.

Of course, a monitoring dashboard might have an irreducible number of metrics and alerts; consider creating simpler variants depending on target audience.

2. Size

Decide what is the ideal target platform for your dashboard. Who is going to consume it, and on what device. 

For example, if you are displaying a monitoring dashboard on a big screen in your office, you might want a low-res dashboard set to scale up ("Can grow"), so it can be read from across the room, without having to configure all fonts to be large:

Or, if you're primary users have iPads:

The key points here are: use a fixed size, and tick "can grow" as well as "can shrink". This fixes your dashboard design irrespective of target device, so no layout changes occur on different screen sizes and aspect ratios.

3. Photography

Find a good image which will form a central theme to your dashboard. You want a large enough image that it does not noticeably pixelate when you use it. Consider attribution/license terms of the image too. You'll build your dashboard around/upon this.

Consider using an animated GIF if you can find one suitable. Note these may take longer to load on slower connections. You can also consider authoring an animated GIF from a video file you have found or produced. For example the above dashboard used an animated GIF of a smoke stack on Giphy found using a "Size: Large" + "Type: GIF" Google image search

The image can be a background or overlay across the entire dashboard, shown with low opacity as above (a low-opacity overlay is often better than a background image), or a central image shown with full opacity around which you place text and charts.

If the image has a focal area, you can use it as an overlay for the whole dashboard, but keep the focal area clear of charts. For example here the football players are in the centre, where only text is overlaid.

To configure an overlay or background image, see Report Settings, Image.

By default the image is "On top of views" and opacity is set quite low. Try adjusting the opacity later once you have some charts and text added.

4. Layout

Consider whether to use "Auto" or "Free-form" Layout, from Report Settings.

When using "Free-form", you are free to size and position the views using handles, also can overlap them with buttons that let you send each chart to back or front. In this mode you have access to the grid-snapping tool. Once all views have been placed on the dashboard, switch to this mode to easily resize views to pixel-perfect accuracy. Views will now snap into place to align themselves with other views. Furthermore, you can see the width and height as % of the page that each view takes up, or individual chart size in pixels. A group of aligned views can be resized by a shared control - simply drag the shared edge of the view towards where you want it to snap to. (keyboard controls: "Control" or "Meta" key pressed when dragging or resizing a view will disable snapping behaviour. "Shift" key will keep the view aspect ratio.)

Alternatively, if you don't want to overlay views, or have a simpler layout, leave the layout as "Auto", which might make it easier to align views in rows and columns.

For this kind of dashboard you typically want to deselect "Enable mobile mode". In combination with "Can grow" from above, you'll end up with a beautiful dashboard that scales up and down like an image, without changing how it looks.

You can find in the same section of Report settings an option to allow contents of each report tab to 'spill over' and appear on multiple scrollable pages, via the 'multi-page layout' (see Page configuration options). These pages will be in sync and respond to your filtering and selection behaviour, which may be relevant for some use cases.

Another useful layout mode is the option to display report tabs as a drop-down list, or to have them appear along the top, similar to browser tabs - see the white Vs black report tabs below.

The switch can be made under the Report Settings > Global

5. Charts

Add the charts ("views") that you want, and configure their data properties (split, measure, colour etc.). Get the data correct; we'll polish the style later. Explore your data by dragging fields from the Data tab into the view toolbars when a view is focused:

If needed, use a Filters view to allow users to interact with the dashboard (in addition to selecting inside views).

Add view titles or footers to describe the charts, or use a Content view to add arbitrary text (and, optionally, data-driven / formula-based text/images/URLs etc.) elsewhere on the dashboard.

6. Colours

In Report settings, Style, use the "Create style" button to configure two contrasting colours (foreground and background); these will be automatically applied to all style settings throughout the report. It's a quick way to easily set a custom interface colour scheme. For example the first dashboard above uses a near-black background and a white foreground.

If you are using overlapping views or a background image, you'll want to remove the resulting background colour from each view, by setting opacity to zero on the colour picker. The page background will remain, plus the background image, with the overlaid views being transparent:

You should also customise the data styles, order and colours of the fields in your data, using the report/view Data settings tab. For example here I configured a sequence of green to red for income groups and corrected the order since alphabetical was not the desired order. You can also use "Distribute colours" to repeatedly "roll the dice" on random colour palettes until you find something you like:

7. Font

In report settings, Styles, configure an impactful font. Google Fonts is a free collection of around 1000 eye-catching fonts; find one you like, and paste the name into Omniscope. For example the first dashboard above uses the Frijole font:

After changing font, you'll be prompted to reload. Try a few fonts until you find one that works well with your message and charts.

8. Polish the style

Finally, fine-tune the view settings to maximise impact and minimise distraction. You want to get rid of all unnecessary "ink" on the screen - for example, often you don't need gridlines, and don't need to label everything with measure values.

Disable colour keys, if you have (for example) a labelled chart which implicitly acts as a colour key (as above). Adjust the font size and opacity of labels, to focus attention on the most important message such as titles. Tweak the layout and (e.g.) bar spacing, such that the data fits well.

If you can't find the setting you want, use search:

Alternatively : give your report a makeover in two clicks - Report styles section now allows users to pick from a list of pre-configured style presets. You can also create your own presets and share them as Report styles (in XML format) with your colleagues.

9. Share and test

Finally, go to the report sharing settings to enable public access and to get the shared report URL:

The URL shown here will be a direct link to the report. If you have multiple tabs in the report, you can open the link, and choose the tab, and the browser will update with a direct link to that tab, which you can share with others.

For example:


Tip: If you wish to create a link directly to a single tab without showing the main toolbar, you can edit your URL as per this equivalent example given the above link:


Alternatively you can download an IOR file, which is a snapshot of the report with its data, for backup or offline sharing. Go back to the workflow app. You might also consider downloading an IOZ file for backup or re-deployment purposes, which is an archive of the workflow (minus data sources); this can be done from the workflow, or from the directory list page.

Be sure to test your dashboard on a variety of devices or browser sizes. 

Further help

If you need more help with any aspect of Omniscope, or have feedback, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We prefer to use our public forums since everyone gets to see the discussion and solution, but if your query is private, please email

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