The LOTR approach to dashboards doesn’t work

“One dashboard to rule them all, one dashboard to find them, one dashboard to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them”                                                                                     

“One ring dashboard to rule them all, one ring dashboard to find them,
one ring dashboard to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them”

Often the brief comes in “I need a dashboard” 

“That’s great”, “You’ve come to the right place, welcome to Arrowstream, who is the dashboard for?”

“It needs to be used by the board of directors … so something that looks good and highlights what they need on one screen”

“Ok sounds good”

“We should also be able to filter it by 6 different demographics, oh and different colours for different brands, the option to put it in Spanish or French, able to export to PowerPoint and Excel”. “Can you then add options for the user to change the minimum base size, significance testing at 90%, 95% and 99%”. “Can you also show multiple waves in the same screen? “There are 130 different metrics that are important too”. “The team in the US prefer these charts but the UK office prefer these”. “Oh and the middle management can’t see each other’s results”


The pitfall that many fall into is trying to do all these requirements in one. Technically it is possible. But is it the right thing to do?

In our experience, no. Having one dashboard to rule them all seldom works.  

Identifying the audience is the most crucial part of designing a successful dashboard. There are many aspects to this, which will be covered in future blog posts and also worked through in our project workshops. 

For now here are a few high level options to consider… 

Are you looking for either an:

  • Infographic,
  • Overview, or
  • Explorer?


  • Designed for the mass appeal, often what you see in newspapers or magazines
  • If there is interactivity it is very simple
  • An infographic typically answers one or two questions. 


  • Displays multiple KPIs
  • Designed to highlight exceptions and bring these to the reader’s attention
  • Typically on one screen
  • Interactivity to help the curious user. For example if brand usage is down 30% on last year you’ll want to click on it to get more details about the brand and find out what is going on
  • Used by decision makers and those impacted by the KPIs.


  • Gives access to all metrics and dimensions
  • Allows an analyst to explore the data visually, to test hypotheses, validate assumptions
  • Provides the user with options on how to filter, how to group the data and how to view the data. 

A dashboard can do a lot but one single dashboard can’t do everything for everyone all at the same time. Being clear on your audience is the most crucial question to answer before building any dashboard. 

Picture of Andrew Le Breuilly

Andrew Le Breuilly

Andrew has over 15 years of experience working in Data Visualisation and Market Research. He has worked on some of the most complex surveys and has delivered 200+ Tableau dashboards for clients. He holds the Market Research Advanced Certificate and has a passion for delivering high quality, visually appealing survey analysis.

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