The Position of the Information on the Dashboard

Information can be emphasized or deemphasized by its position on a display. The visual dominance is the center of the screen. Depending how the culture reads (left to right, or right to left) the other area of dominance will either be the top left or top right of the screen. The other corners are neutral, or in the case of the bottom right, actually deemphasized. So the most important data, such as key performance indicators, has to go in the center or the top left of the dashboard. This is especially true if secondary data on the dashboard can only be understood after an understanding of the most important information.


Color is another preattentive variable that can aid in the clarity and quickness of understanding information. Here's an example of how easy it is to pick out data based on the blue color. In fact, if there were many more data points, the time needed to scan and quickly pick out the blue data points would be about the same.

Our perception of color is relative and dependent on the context that surrounds it, so selecting the color of the object and a contrasting color for the background is important. There are variations of the use color as a preattentive means, such as color hues, brightness, and color saturation.

Shapes and Sizes

Shapes are also a preattentive variable that, like color, can assist the user in quickly differentiating data sets. The size of a shape may be use to convey quantities or magnitude. Enclosing a data set in a border or using icons to provide meaning or focus attention are also positive uses of forms and shapes.

The reason preattentive attributes are important is simple. Dashboards should quickly and instantly allow the viewer to grasp the information important to the user. Preattentive features are just a head-start on that process, providing information to the viewer before the viewer consciously knows he or she is paying attention.

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