Heuristics for supporting cooperative dashboard design

(a) Providing context, explanation, and summarization is helpful. (b) Definition of key terms and goals, and textual scaffolding, are helpful. (c) Navigational dead-ends inhibit further user actions. (d) Enabling users to redefine / update terms or specify new goals can enable repair and refinement. (e) Clear takeaways with supporting evidence contribute to a meaningful close to the conversation.
Successes and failures of cooperative dashboard design throughout the five analytic states of a conversation (a-e). Cooperative dashboards guide users through their data and, in contrast to static dashboards, provide bi-directional communication through interactivity to allow the user to change or refine their analytical goals, switch between topics of interest and levels of detail, correct or update the system if it provides irrelevant or incorrect information, and provide useful summaries of analytical actions. Note that these conversation states are not necessarily sequential and the analyst can move between these various states.
Dashboards are no longer mere static displays of metrics; through functionality such as interaction and storytelling, they have evolved to support analytic and communicative goals like monitoring and reporting. Existing dashboard design guidelines, however, are often unable to account for this expanded scope as they largely focus on best practices for visual design. In contrast, we frame dashboard design as facilitating an analytical conversation: a cooperative, interactive experience where a user may interact with, reason about, or freely query the underlying data. By drawing on established principles of conversational flow and communication, we define the concept of a cooperative dashboard as one that enables a fruitful and productive analytical conversation, and derive a set of 39 dashboard design heuristics to support effective analytical conversations. To assess the utility of this framing, we asked 52 computer science and engineering graduate students to apply our heuristics to critique and design dashboards as part of an ungraded, opt-in homework assignment. Feedback from participants demonstrates that our heuristics surface new reasons dashboards may fail, and encourage a more fluid, supportive, and responsive style of dashboard design. Our approach suggests several compelling directions for future work, including dashboard authoring tools that better anticipate conversational turn-taking, repair, and refinement and extending cooperative principles to other analytical workflows.
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Vidya Setlur
Arvind Satyanarayan
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Heuristics for supporting cooperative dashboard design

Vidya Setlur, Michael Correll, Arvind Satyanarayan, and Melanie Tory. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics—VIS/TVCG. 2023.

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