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User Dashboard: Essentials, Tips and Examples [+ Free Templates]

User experience is important because it aims to fulfill the user’s needs. It should provide users with positive experiences, intuitive control, and efficiency. This is why user experience is the top priority when it comes to creating user dashboards. If you design a proper and modern UI dashboard, it will give the users access to the information they need at first glance. With that being said, today we’ll talk about user dashboards, what makes an efficient user dashboard, what are the best practices. In addition, we’ll illustrate the guide with amazing dashboard user interface examples and add free templates for you to try out. Are you ready?

The Essentials of the User Dashboard: Overview

What is a Dashboard?

The Dashboard is a set of screens that displays a global overview of actionable relevant data, functions, and controls. It’s a form of data visualization that aims to give a report or progress to a particular objective or process. Think about your car dashboard, for example. It’s a set of screens that displays relevant to your driving data such as speed, engine temperature, battery, fuel, and indicators when something goes off. There’s no surprise that, in fact, dashboards take their name specifically from automobile dashboards.

User dashboards are essential for businesses as they make the process of analyzing and distributing data simple. They save time by visualizing patterns, trends, and comparisons and give you full control over your processes and performance. Everyone, from executives, the marketing team, the IT managers to the sales teams can benefit from an effective dashboard to track campaigns, opportunities, and performance.

It’s important to note, that dashboards and reports are not the same things. Although both provide historical data and multiple metrics, dashboards are live and interactive. Unlike reports that share the data of interest, the dashboard also monitors it.

With this out of the way, here are some of the most common components of a user dashboard:

  • Provides a global overview for the user
  • Offers data about the current status
  • Shows urgent information, alerts, and warnings
  • Features all data in the form of cards
  • Usual components are: navigation, profile info, quick links, and notifications



What are the types of user dashboards?

There are four main types of user dashboards depending on their usage.

Operational Dashboard

The first type of user dashboard monitors real-time data or transactional data against key metrics. These dashboards are constantly updated to serve the course of your daily workflow and help your quick decision-making process. They often track metrics such as new users, bounce rate, follower count, comments, and returns. Google Analytics Real-time is a good example of an operational dashboard.


Strategic Dashboard

The second type allows executives to monitor the status of KPIs. Unlike the operational type, strategic user dashboards update data less frequently and serve to summarize performance over a specified period. Most often you will see metrics such as financial performance over a period of time, MRR growth rates, earnings, tax, amortization, and others. Cascade is a great example of a strategic user dashboard that provides data on how a user performs against strategic goals.


Analytical Dashboard

The third most common type of dashboard analyzes massive volumes of complicated data. Its main purpose is to allow its users to predict outcomes, investigate trends, discover patterns and insights, and make decisions. You can monitor the annual contract value, your daily active users, and even measure the spending habits of your agency.


Platform Dashboard

For social platforms, this type allows users to access controls, tools, and any analytics relevant to their accounts. The Youtube Dashboard can serve as a great example. Amongst the cards on that platform dashboard, you can see your channel violations, latest video performance, comments, news, insights, creator insider, channel analytics, and issues that might impact your channel.



What should be included in a user dashboard?

If we talk about the best practices, the most important thing about the data included in a dashboard is that it’s good quality data. This means the data comes from always up to date high-quality relevant sources. After all, the main purpose of a user dashboard is to provide you with information that helps you see patterns, make decisions and react when it’s necessary.

So, what are the best practices when it comes to making a reliable, relevant, and accurate user dashboard?

Data with automatic updating: Remember, you need relevant data all the time. By updating manually, may result in a lag and producing inaccurate data.

Complete data: Yes, simplicity is key. However, you need to have all the information required to perform your job, even if it’s at the expense of simple design.

Relevant to the particular user: Everyone has a different role in a company, so every user dashboard should have relevant to that role data. The dashboard for the IT manager will look completely different in comparison to the dashboard of the Marketing expert.

Data Visualization: The best way to display data is through tables, line charts, bar charts, and other types of data viz. Instead of looking at numbers that hardly make any sense, infographics visualize trends, patterns, allow you to make instant comparisons, and help you make your conclusions quickly. It’s even better when these graphs include different colors and icons.



How to design an effective user dashboard?

After all, what you need is to have a dashboard that communicates your metrics and goals in a clear way. Whether you need to create a dashboard, there are a few things to take care of.

 1. Who is it for?

Your first step is to know who and how will be using the dashboard. Even before starting to create your first wireframes for a dashboard UI, you need to research the target audience. This includes where will the users view it from? Will they need to see it on the go via their mobile device or in silence on the office desktop? In addition, for more traditional users, you might consider a cleaner and less fancy design.


2. What is the end goal?

In short, what problem does your dashboard solve? This will determine what data will your users be looking for. Based on the specific area of business, selecting the right KPIs will help to shape the direction of your dashboards as these metrics will display visual representations of relevant insights.


3. One size does not fit all!

Every department has different needs, so there’s no point in placing all the information on the dashboard. It will not only make the user experience overwhelming but will also confuse the user. For example, if you’re a marketing specialist, you won’t need to see data relevant for the HR department or the sales manager.


4. Numbers need context

In order for the user to be able to make a decision, they need to know if the numbers are good or bad. This means the dashboard has to provide context with comparison values and offer a visual story. For example, comparison against a set target or against a specific period of time.


5. The right charts

Data visualization is meaningless if you use the incorrect chart type. For example, pie charts are very difficult to scale results in the smallest slices, so they aren’t a good choice for an effective dashboard. Instead, bar charts are much more versatile in terms of plotting numeric values against categorical labels. They are easy to understand and compact. Although it all depends on the data and niche, we could generalize data viz for user dashboards as following:


  • Good choice for charts in user dashboard: Line charts (for displaying patterns), bar charts (for comparing items in the same category)
  • Charts to avoid: Pie Charts ( difficult to accurately compare sizes), bubble charts (very hard to read).



6. Intuitive layout

This is how you place the cards on the dashboard. The best practice here is to start with the big picture and major trends. They need to be instantly visible at first glance and give you the first overview before moving your eyes to the details. It’s important to group everything by theme and follow a flow. If the data is scattered, the user will have to jump from marketing-related data to sales data and etc, which is not a good user interface.


7. Design principles for a good UI dashboard

These principles refer to data visualization in general and you’ll find them accurate for dashboards as well.

Simplicity: Especially in cases where the dashboard has a lot of data, the design focuses on simplicity. The data should be easily scannable and comprehensive, so there’s no room for pointless decorations and effects.

Highlights: Effects such as shadows give a lot of depth to certain cards, sections, or elements. This is why they need to be well- thought and highlight only the main points that the user should immediately see.

Colors: Colors are one of the best ways to communicate data visually. Our brains already register red as bad news, and green as good tendencies. With this in mind, using colors in your charts to indicate if the data should be perceived as a success or warning, is a great decision. Of course, the same color should be used for matching items across all charts for easy intuitive identification.

Layout color palettes: Again on the colors, the color scheme of the dashboard should feature two to three colors. Too many colors can easily distract the user.

Fonts: Easy to read fonts with distinguishable letterforms, Il1 (capital I, lowercase L, and the number 1); or O0 (capital O and the number 0). The best user interface fonts offer a good visual distinction between those letterforms.

Consistency: Fonts, labeling, and data formatting should be consistent across the entire dashboard.


8. Filtering

One of the most crucial elements for directing data for users is the option to filter values temporarily. For example, users who need a dashboard to view the visits, bounce rates, and approximate time of reading on their blogs, should be able to filter visitors by the country for a particular month.

Now, with the theory out of the way, let’s jump right into a collection of amazing examples for great UI dashboards from around the web.


10 Inspirational Examples for UI Dashboard Designs

In this section, we’ve gathered 10 creative examples for well-designed and efficient user dashboards by designers from all around the web.

1. Heartbeat

This is a Fintech user dashboard for managing invoices and financial distribution by Vladimir Gruev for Heartbeat.

2. Store Admin Panel

This is a UI dashboard design for a store admin panel by uixNinja.


You have all the main key data on the home dashboard, and the morning starts with tasty coffee and surfs through the combined data by Taras Migulko.

4. Traffic Control System Dashboard

UI dashboard design exploration of the all-new adaptive traffic control solution by Kevin Dukkon.

5. Animated Kanban Board

Dedlen – Animated Kanban Board Dashboard by Malik Abimanyu for Keitoto.

6.eProduct Admin Dashboard

This is an eProduct user dashboard Order Page design by Ehsan Moin for Arena.

7. Payment Gateway User Dashboard

This is the admin dashboard where you can see all the merchants signed up on the payment gateway. Design by Paresh Khatri.

8.Web Analytics Tool User Dashboard

A design of a web analytics tool user dashboard by Shakuro.

9. Product Analytics Management System Dashboard

Product Analytics Management System Dashboard Dark Version by Kostia Varhatiuk for Fireart Studio.

10. Personal Wallet User Dashboard

Modern and dashboard UI for a personal wallet by AR Shakir for Dark UI.


10 Open-Source and Free Dashboard Templates

And last, we’ll close this guide with a collection of 10 free user dashboards that you can download, modify and test out. The templates are under the MIT License, meaning permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of the files and associated documentation.

1. Soft UI Dashboard: Free Bootstrap 5 User Dashboard

This free Soft UI Dashboard has more than 70 frontend individual elements. Furthermore, it includes buttons, inputs, navbars, nav tabs, cards, or alerts. All components can vary in color, which you can easily modify using SASS files and classes.

You can view the Demo HERE.

Go To Free Download


2. Material User Dashboard: Free Frontend Preset For Node.js

Next is a free Material-UI Admin built for Node.js. It comes with 30 implemented frontend components, which you can combine or modify using SASS files. With that being said, every element has multiple states for color, style, hover, and focus.

Go To Free Download


3. Argon Dashboard Nodejs: Free Frontend Preset For Node.js

Bootstrap 4 Admin Dashboard built for Node.js with over frontend 100 components, to choose from and combine as you wish. Therefore, all components can take variations in color, which you can easily modify using SASS files.

You can view the Demo HERE.

Go To Free Download


4. Black Dashboard React: Free Bootstrap 4 (Reactstrap) Admin Template

Here we have Bootstrap 4 (Reactstrap) Admin Dashboard with over 16 individual components, giving you the freedom of choosing and combining. In the meantime, all components can take variations in color, that you can easily modify using SASS files.

You can view the Demo HERE.

Go To Free Download


5. Paper Dashboard React: Free Bootstrap 4 Admin Template

Paper Dashboard React is a Bootstrap Admin Panel. It combines soft colors with typography and spacious cards and graphics.

You can view the Demo HERE.

Go To Free Download


6. Vue Black Dashboard: Free Bootstrap 4 and Vue.js Admin Template

Bootstrap 4 and Vue.js Admin Dashboard with a huge number of components built to fit together and look amazing.

You can view the Demo HERE.

Go To Free Download


7. Notus React Free Tailwind CSS UI Kit and Admin

We proceed with a free Tailwind CSS and React UI Kit and Admin dashboard. Notus React is built with 100 individual front-end components to choose from and combine. All components can take variations in colors that you can easily modify using Tailwind CSS classes.

Go To Free Download


8. Volt – Free Bootstrap 5 Dashboard Template

Volt is a free and open-source Bootstrap 5 Admin Dashboard featuring over 100 components, 11 example pages, and 3 plugins with Vanilla JS.

Go To Free Download


9. Star Admin 2: Free Bootstrap 5 User Dashboard Template

Star Admin 2 Free is an open-source Bootstrap 5 dashboard template. This template comes with an MIT license. Use it on all your projects for free.

You can view the Demo HERE.

Go To Free Download


10. AdminKit: Free Bootstrap 5 User Dashboard

This template allows you to build on top of the latest version of Bootstrap 5 and HTML5, which means – robust, responsive, and easy to customize.

Go To Free Download


In conclusion

The main purpose of the user dashboard is to communicate the most important information for the user, in a very simple and easy to scan and understand way. It should save the user time and help them quickly read patterns and trends to make decisions.

In the meantime, you might be also interested in reading some of these related articles.

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