We had a lot of fun at the SDForum Business Intelligence SIG September meeting where Stephen Few spoke on "Why Most Dashboards Don't Work". Here we are talking about Information Dashboards that let an executive pilot their enterprise to new levels of performance. Stephen is an expert on the visual presentation of information, he has just published a book on Dashboard design and he has spoken previously to the BI SIG.
The fun came from looking at examples of dashboards that had been culled from the web and picking holes in what they presented. In practice it was surprisingly easy for audience members to find problems in the dashboards shown. From these examples and some critical thinking, Stephen pulled out a list of 13 things to avoid in dashboard design and a shorter list of things to do to get a dashboard design right.
However the thing that I found most compelling about the presentation came right at the end. Stephen had judged a dashboard design competition for DMReview and he showed us some of the entries. Then he showed us a dashboard that he would have entered had he not been a judge. Of all the dashboards presented, this was the one that showed us a great deal of information in a small space and discretely guided us to the information that most required our attention.
If you want judge, you can download a version of the presentation from the Business Intelligence SIG's Yahoo web site. We had to cut the size of the file down to make it fit. You can also buy Stephen's book on dashboard design. I highly recommend it.