Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some Tips on Process Dashboard Design

This post is an excerpt from a an article I read this morning at Visual Business Intelligence. Excerpt follows:

"A graphic optimally designed for running a process and handling abnormal conditions effectively will, in fact, look boring.

Effective monitoring displays don’t “Wow” people with immediate graphical appeal. People often look at my dashboard designs and think “Where are the colors and those cute gauges that I like so much?” Here are a few of the characteristics that are listed as effective for HMI displays:

  • Important information and Key Performance Indicators have embedded trends.
  • There is no gratuitous animation.
  • There is very limited use of color and alarm colors are used only to display alarms and nothing else…Bright, intense (saturated) color is used only for quickly drawing the operator’s attention to abnormal conditions and alarms. If the process is running correctly, the screen should display little to no color.
  • Equipment is depicted in a simple 2-D low-contrast manner, rather than brightly colored 3-D vessels with shadowing.
  • Layout is generally consistent with the operator’s mental model of the process."
I have to admit, the example he shows of a bad process dashboard is terrifying in its obfuscatory ability; there is more bad pastel than an 80's Spandau Ballet concert.

For me, the interesting issues centre around how these general approaches translate to 3D. Any sort of dashboard in 3D must follow similar principles, and not confuse the viewer with extra unnecessary information. In this space, a lot can be learned from games studios, as they routinely design high performance interfaces for multiuser environments. 3D is a tool in the hands of a good designer, who is wanting to use it to highlight spatial issues, or to communicate something that requires the detail of a 3D simulation. 3D is a bad solution, where its usage provides no extra insight into the spatial structure of the information in question.


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