Let’s be clear. I don’t like dashboards.

As a whole, dashboards seldom provide value to users. Often they serve no other purpose than a dumping ground of information and features.

They serve as an easy way to mask iterations and iterations of product design debt. It’s a slippery slope. As time goes on features that would normally be killed, end up on the dashboard. Worse, some will boast that they are solutions to problems.

A customer complains a feature is difficult to get to—put it on the dashboard.

A customer asks why they can’t find the information they were looking for—put it on the dashboard.

A product team argument about where to place a new feature—put it on the dashboard!

Do not let pages become bloated with useless features. It won’t take long for that two or three component dashboard to become a landfill.

If you’re a designer, avoid calling anything a Dashboard—even when designing a multi-component page. The label alone gives customers, managers and other stakeholders permission to toss garbage there.

Every feature you design should provide value to your users. It’s important because every new feature can take away from those that already exist.

Strong feature increases the number of people that use your product or the frequency with which they use it.

One thought on “ How Dashboards Become Product Feature Landfills ”

  1. Replace “Dashboards” with “Applications” and everything you said still holds true. As you said toward the end, the problem isn’t about dashboards, per se, but about shoveling features in (anywhere really) without design thought or prioritization.

    Still, I’d like to defend the dashboard idea a bit. Providing dashboards to users means moving frequently used features “up front” rather than nested 5 levels deep in a feature-tree. Doing that makes imminent sense until, like you said, every new feature starts clamoring for front-page, dashboard status. In my experience, most of the time when that happens it is because separate user types (personas) have competing, conflicting needs. In that case, rather than say “no dashboard for you” it would be better to offer separate dashboards for separate audiences or even offer some level of customization to individual users.

    Users need what they need and it is up to designers to deliver that value to them. Dashboards are one effective way to do that.

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