If self-serve is a feeling, then the feeling of clicking on a chart and being able to dig into the data from there is the most self-serve I’ve ever felt. It feels powerful, it feels intuitive, it feels like it’s how BI should be. It’s so good…that I thought I’d write a blog post about it.
I’m going to show you how to design dashboards with interactivity in mind so that you can share that sweet self-serve feeling with everyone in your team. I want you to encourage people to click!
I’ll give you an overview of some of my favourite interactivity features in Lightdash:
And I’ll give you some real-life examples of how you can get people clicking more using these features.
We’ve built a dashboard that gives us an overview of our web traffic in the last week: how much traffic there is, where people are coming from, who these people are - all that jazz.
It looks something like this:
On the surface, it looks like a lot of colours and charts, but let me show you how we let users dig deeper into the data.
Cross-filtering: a click that lets you understand how some data affects all of the charts in your dashboard. Just click on a data point and add a filter to your dashboard directly from there.
Okay, so we’ve got the basic dashboard filters at the top (date is in the last week, web traffic is coming from lightdash.com, etc.)…but, like all data exploration, the best filtering happens with context. I see a data point and I think “hmm, I wonder how that thing affects all the other data?” - so I click it.
In my website traffic example, I might be looking at the website traffic by location and ask myself:
“I wonder what pages people from the US are most interested in?”
So, I click on the US bar in my chart, and I filter my dashboard by location = US - and now, I can analyze my web traffic overview for just US customers.
Cross filtering makes it super easy to do some digging into cause and effect of things. It lets your end users better understand how some data points impact the rest of the results in your dashboard!
View underlying data: a click that lets you see all of the values that make up a data point in your chart.
When you see a metric, sometimes you just want to dig into the details. You want to see all of the data points that make up your total user count, or your total quarterly revenue.
In Lightdash, you can click on any metric in a chart, and select view underlying data. This will show you (surprise, surprise) the data points which make up that metric.
This lets users go from a chart like total revenue over timeto answering a question like how much of our total revenue came from gel pen sales? in just the click of a button.
Linked dimensions: you can have your dimensions link to URLs, so when people click on them, they’re redirected to the link you connected. These URLs use liquid templating - so you can have the link vary based on the dimension’s value!
Sometimes, seeing data in Lightdash is the the first step to completing a task in a totally different app. For example, you might be looking at users who have recently signed up for a membership in Lightdash, but you want to send them an email in Hubspot. Or maybe, you’re looking at web traffic, and you want to see the actual webpages to understand what type of content is the most engaging.
Linked dimensions make both of these situations easier.
In your dbt model’s .yml files, you can add URLs to your dimensions. It looks something like this:
The output? In your results table, or in your underlying data tables, the dimension will link out to the URL that you defined in your YAML file. Like this:
So you can do things like link out to your CRM from a report of customers who need some love. Or, in the example above, link to pages in your website so you can see what content is getting the most traffic.
Explore from here: the best feature if you need to really dig into the data. This opens up an Explore view with the chart or data that you’re interested in exploring some more. Any changes you make here will not affect the original chart - so you can Explore away without worrying you’ll break things.
90% of my dashboards and charts start from tweaking an existing chart so that it’s suited for my purpose: things like changing week to month or using a slightly different table calculation to what’s already in there.
This is why I think explore from here is one of the most powerful data interactivity features we have at Lightdash. See a chart that you want to dig into some more? Just hit explore from here and you open up an Explore View page that’s ready to go.
For example, if I have a chart with the highest number of page views on our website, I might ask the question: How big of a difference was there between our highest traffic day and the second highest traffic day?. Or maybe I want to create a chart that shows how our highest traffic days change over time (are they increasing week on week? If so, by how much?). All of these questions would use the existing chart on my dashboard as the starting point.
To do this, I’d just head to the chart, click Explore from here, then I’m able to make changes here that will not affect my original chart. Once I’m done, I can easily share it or save it.
That’s it! A few of my favourite interactivity features in Lightdash that can help you encourage your team to click and get one step closer to that self-serve feeling. If you feel like we’re missing some key interactivity features or you’d like to chat about what we’ve got already, then I’d love to hear from you!
Join the Lightdash Community and chat BI with us - we really appreciate hearing your feedback.
Now go forth, and click.