Dashboards are present in all SaaS mobile and web applications offered by enterprises for B2B and B2C applications. SaaS dashboards can be found in food ordering apps, your favorite fashion brand’s online store, CRM tools, marketing portals, customer support services etc
SaaS application have dashboards to organize key SaaS metrics from sales, marketing, finance, operations, support and development teams to give stakeholders a bird’s-eye view across different business functions.
SaaS dashboards act as an interface between the employees and the operational features of the application. It is a means to provide restricted access to authorized users as per their hierarchy. It allow access to user controls/features, display key metrics and visual reports, access detailed reports across timeline all of which helps in running a business smoothly.
Let’s take a look at few types of dashboards:
1. Admin dashboard:
Admin dashboards in SaaS applications are used to manage user access, access tools and permissions, manage configurations or settings for the software and much more. Admin dashboards allow authorized users to view, edit and control access for other users, check their settings, permissions, contact details etc. Admin dashboards in SaaS applications are more likely to be used for managing customer subscriptions, upgrade or downgrade subscription plans, offer or over ride discounts. They can also be used to manage customer’s choice of features from the SaaS offerings, track any user tickets for complaints or customer service.
2. Data visualization dashboards:
Data visualization dashboard are data centric dashboard often representing data for KPIs, company goals, reports for company function or day-to-day operations.
Such dashboards are essential for getting a bird’s eye view of various functions across the SaaS platform. These dashboards can present statistics for marketing department, critical data for sales team, status of user requests serviced for operations team or give a glimpse of critical parameters for financial team and much more.
These dashboards need to be crisp in design and display key data points at a glimpse. The status or progress achieved should be easy to infer by looking at the visuals. Such business intelligence dashboards for SaaS can use different graph styles, display historical data across timeline, highlight any outliers to grab user attention. The key to creating user-centric business intelligence dashboards is to understand goals for each user and display visuals and reports accordingly.
In order to decide what user might want from the SaaS dashboard one can follow following best practices:
1. Task Analysis
Each dashboard user would have their unique tasks or report to analyze. To create a user-centric design it is necessary to perform task analysis for each user role. Task analysis involves studing and understanding how a user would perform their tasks to achieve their goal. Task analysis will need to be performed by defining user types by consider their hierarchy, define their goals within the SaaS dashboard, understand what reports they would like to see etc.
Through iterative A/B testing these task flows can be analyzed and area that need improvements in design can be identified.
2. Use UI patterns or recurring designs
UI patterns are a result of the software’s architecture or because of reliable design patterns that are being followed across industry for a long time. UI patterns are familiar to most users and put new users at ease when using complex SaaS dashboards. Few examples of UI patterns can be drawer side menu, drop-down menu, bell notification icon, placing filter/sort options above tabular data etc.
While designing SaaS dashboards we can take advantage of such recurring UI patterns. When dashboard users are expected to perform repetitive tasks having such intuitive environment can reduce their learning curve and cognitive load.
Designer can build upon such patterns and bring in their creativity by using attractive color palette and animations.
3. Maintain consistency:
Maintain consistency across dashboards for repetitive or key tasks such as displaying key metrics, placement for filters / sorting. Use familiar layouts to represent tables or tabular reports.
Navigation within the dashboard when considering user restricted access should also maintain layout consistency. For example Navigation cannot have completely different patterns for an associate and a manager.
Follow through the consistency for color styles, icons and typography for different view. Once can play around with colors to differentiate between different views of the dashboard. But the colors should not deviate much from the brand guideline.
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