9 November 2022
It’s no secret that most people who use a data visualisation tool are trying to build a killer data dashboard: one that nails aesthetics, and is full of interesting charts and actionable data.
And to create a pixel-perfect dashboard, you might add colours to your charts, for example. Colours help you to show off your skills to users and make your chart pop. But when creating the perfect dashboard, have you considered the full spectrum of users and thought about how your design might come across to someone who is colourblind, has loss of sight, or who is dyslexic and/or has dyscalculia?
If you’re not actively designing for users with disabilities, it’s likely that you’re ignoring or alienating a large portion of your audience: approximately 12% of the people on this planet are dyslexic, and an incredible 300 million people are colourblind. It’s critical to take into account these users when designing the perfect data dashboard to ensure that everyone has access to the data you share Wondering how to do it? Let’s set the scene.
Let’s say you’re working for a large bank and you’ve been tasked with providing a dashboard that presents KPIs and forecasted data for executives and stakeholders. You don’t know exactly who will view your data dashboard, but you want to provide something impressive that showcases your abilities to your manager.
You spend several days creating the dashboard of your manager’s dreams, and you finally have it ready. But when the time comes to deliver it, you notice that 2 of the stakeholders are wearing glasses, and they immediately begin to squint and adjust their specs to get a better look at your work.
And when you begin your presentation and start pointing to the negative and positive colours (red and green), one person mentions that they can’t distinguish between the two.
So, instead of creating a data dashboard that should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for its beauty and relevance, you’ve built something that not all users can easily approach, understand, or learn from. You didn’t set out to build a non-inclusive dashboard, you simply failed to recognise and take into account the so-called ‘hidden disabilities’ that exist all around us, every day. In the future, you can avoid this same mistake by trying to better understand these disabilities, and how they might impact your audience.
Building more inclusive data dashboards starts with discovering some key facts and figures about disabilities that may impact someone’s ability to easily interact with your work:
People with so-called ‘hidden’ disabilities are present in every line of work. In fact, the person writing this very blog is colourblind and dyslexic (thank you Auto Correct!) That’s why it’s so critical to consider accessibility and design inclusivity when creating data dashboards.
At Vizlib, we are known for building solutions that empower our users to customise their visualisations in a way that no other product allows for.
This level of flexibility allows our customers to build compelling dashboards that can address many of the disabilities we’ve discussed in this blog, whilst still allowing viewers to answer their business questions.
There are a few straightforward design principles and guidelines that you can keep in mind when creating dashboards that will automatically improve the accessibility of your design. As our Lead Senior Product Designer, Simon Lavin, says: simplicity is key.
While it may seem obvious that one colour is different to another, it’s not obvious to everyone (the number of times I have asked for help to distinguish between colours is immeasurable!) Luckily, it’s not difficult to design with colourblindness in mind:
It’s also helpful to understand the rules regarding visualisations, per the IBCS Standards.
Being dyslexic myself, there are two main things I struggle with: processing a lot of text and reading complex words. This is my personal experience, and different people will struggle with different issues, so it’s best to try and understand the varying ways that dyslexia can impact your users.
A good resource is the “Dyslexia friendly style guide” which includes the following tips:
Have you ever stared at a pivot table and gotten lost in the numbers? The reality is that data is predominantly made up of numbers and percentages, so it can be hard to design a dashboard without it!
But for those who have Dyscalculia, it can be incredibly difficult to read. Just like Dyslexia can be accommodated by using simple English, simple numbers and number values (and the right colour choice) can make all the difference for someone with dyscalculia:
Just as designing a ramp for wheelchair users also benefits people with prams, designing with disabilities in mind also benefits users who do not have a disability. For example, making your charts colourblind-friendly and improving the legibility of your numbers will, at the end of the day, help everyone to better read and understand the data you have put together.
So, next time you prepare to design a dashboard, consider the above disabilities and take into account issues of design inclusivity and accessibility. Whether your work is for the local newspaper or a multinational company, designing for inclusivity should be an integral part of your process.
Vizlib’s feature-rich data visualisation products will help you get started on your data storytelling journey.
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