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How to build interactive dashboards with Lightdash

October 11, 2023
How to build interactive dashboards with Lightdash
Oliver Laslett
CTO & Co-founder
How to build interactive dashboards with Lightdash

In this comprehensive guide, we're going to make use of the latest features in Lightdash to build an interactive dashboard that will last through the ages. The focus of this guide is to show the how of building dashboards and we'll assume you already know the problem your dashboard is trying to solve (if not check out Katie's previous guide to Planning your Dashboard). So let's get building...

Start with your main KPI

Start with the most critical metric or visualization that your users need to see. This will be the central point of your dashboard and will help users grasp the overall status or situation quickly. In this example we're looking at page view data, and undoubtedly folks will ask me "how many people visited lightdash.com today?".

A common pattern we see on our favourite dashboards is some "big number" numbers across the top. In Lightdash it's as simple as creating a tile with just a single metric, in this case "Total page views" from my "Pages" explore:

The most focussed dashboard in the universe.

In this case I haven't filtered the tile to a particular time period, it's the views over all time. When building for interactivity (like we are in this case) it's better not to filter the tiles on each dashboard quite yet. If you're building a specific weekly report or period-over-period analysis, you might want to include some KPIs over fixed time periods.

Add tiles with more details

Once you've established the focus of your dashboard, it's time to add more detailed tiles to provide context and depth. These tiles can include comparisons, trends, or breakdowns that help users understand the data better. Make sure to group similar tiles together and use a consistent design language for easy comprehension. I personally love sprinkling a few tables on my dashboards, in this case I'm showing breakdowns including the top 10 most popular pages and top 10 referring domains. As well as some trends over time:

A dashboard full of detail built from just 2 metrics and 4 dimensions

All the charts on this dashboard are built from a single table with just 2 metrics! You can get a lot of flexibility with just a handful of metrics and dimensions. Remember to focus on just one KPI, here our focus is to create an interactive experience that allows our users to really understand what's going on with our page view data. We're going deep on 2 metrics, not broad.

Encourage interactivity with actions

Not all our users are naturally curious about drilling into data, so let's tempt them with a dashboard filter. Whilst in edit mode, you can add default filters to the dashboard. I'm adding an "in the last 3 months" filter. Which allows users to customise the time horizon on the dashboard. This now makes it just 2 clicks for a user to switch the dashboard from a quarterly report to a weekly or daily. We've added our first interactivity. Also note that the page paths are underlined? I've customised these dimensions to include clickable links, so users can actually click and go and view the real page (check our docs to setup your own dimension links).

Adding some default dashboard filters - this shows the last 3 months of page views

On top of the interactivity above, your dashboards come with a huge amount of default interactivity out of the box. Because Lightdash knows how metrics and dimensions interact, it's able to link together all your dashboard tiles, without doing any work. In this example, I was curious about page views coming from google, by clicking on the google referring domain I get an option to filter everything to only page views coming from google. And just like that I've now got a dashboard for organic traffic! We should always be intentional about interactivity when putting tiles together on a dashboard, it helps our users to drill into the data without needing deep data skills. Let the semantic layer do the heavy lifting for you.

Anything is filterable. By building on the semantic layer, Lightdash enables users to interact with dimensions and metrics.

Deliver dashboard results on a regular schedule

Keep your users informed and engaged by scheduling regular dashboard deliveries. Lightdash allows you to set up automated email and slack deliveries, ensuring that your users receive the latest data and insights directly in their inbox. To set up scheduled deliveries, navigate to "Scheduled deliveries" on your dashboard and configure the frequency, recipients, and content. You can choose to deliver a screenshot of the dashboard (great for weekly updates in slack), or a collection of csvs for each tile on the dashboard (excel fans will love you forever).

Setup scheduled deliveries from your dashboard

Measure Success

Finally, it's essential to measure the success of your dashboard by tracking user engagement and satisfaction. Lightdash provides built-in analytics features that allow you to measure the popularity of your dashboard. Use this data to identify dashboards that are getting views and those that are being left behind. Don't forget to talk to your users! Always gather qualitative feedback from your users to keep up-to-date with their goals and how their needs are changing.

Creating an effective dashboard with Lightdash involves a combination of well-chosen metrics, clear visuals, interactivity, and regular updates. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you'll be on your way to building a god-tier interactive dashboard that provides lasting value to your users. Happy dashboarding!

Join the Lightdash Slack family to get the latest updates from the team and community, show off your Lightdash dashboard and you could grab some exclusive Lightdash swag (a hand tie-dyed t-shirt is only a screenshot away).

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