Very interesting read — I’ve discussed Dashboards on and off with Richard Veryard (, and read a couple of books. The idea that we default to the term lazily is really important, and I think there’s an attraction to the term in that having an overview of a system, bia the data, implictly implies *control* over that system. This is clearly untrue.

However, we can compare the idea to a car dashboard quite directly, and the main question for me, when it comes to any “dashboard” (or presentation of data generally?) is “so what can you do about it?”. For a car dashboard, there is a direct feedback loop between what the gauges and lights tell you, and what you do, as a driver. If the needle is too low, then change gear, speed up, get petrol, etc. If a light comes on, stop and shut the door. All these are essential actions in the running of a car to get from A to B.

Any “dashboard” that gives you information but doesn’t let you do something — that isn’t part of a solid feedback loop — isn’t very valuable. “Interesting” perhaps, but calling it a dashboard and implying some sort of control, is confusing to a user.

Similarly, presenting a dashboard to someone needs to look beyond “what does it represent” — we learn to drive so that we know what to do in response to particular dashboard statuses. So interactive dashboards might be a lot better at revealing and presenting particular calls to action when something needs doing, and to tailoring this (and relevant information) to the specific user.

Personally, for most of the data dashboards I see, I’d prefer the term “overview” — if the interface allows you to explore the data in more detail, then I see the “dashboard” as much more of a summary than a call to action.

Lead tech at OCSI, making data friendly for social good. Likes words. Doesn't really own a bowler hat.

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