Andy Cotgreave, co-author of The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios, talks to us about the future of design for dashboards and shares his tips for companies that are looking to embark on similar projects.
Read are review of his book here.
What is your background briefly?
I’ve had a varied career. I left school wanting to be an artist, but ended up doing Geography at college then a Masters in Computer Science. Since graduation I’ve been a software engineer, project manager, cycle guide + journalist, IT trainer, business researcher and data analyst (in that order). I’m now Technical Evangelist at Tableau, where my job is to enthuse people about data.
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
Absolutely. Data analysts need a myriad of skills from the technical to the creative. Accidentally my entire career has touched on all those and the last 10 years have seen me reap those benefits.
1 min pitch for what you are doing now?
My job as Technical Evangelist at Tableau is to enthuse people about the power of seeing and understanding data. I do this through writing, speaking and coaching. I am lucky to have a job that I love doing.
Congratulations on the book! We loved it and gave it a positive review, what feedback in general have you had to it?
It has blown me away. Writing a book is tough but rewarding. However, the release day is time for nerves: will people like it? I am knocked out by the reception of the book. It’s especially rewarding when people share the dashboards they’ve designed, based on the ones we showed in the book. That was exactly our intention: to be a go-to reference for ideas.
What inspired you to write it – is design getting better, more UX friendly?
I’ve been promising to write a book for seven years. When Steve approached it was finally the right time. The book needed to be written because while there are hundreds of books about making single charts and infographics, there are no books showcasing great dashboards. While we’d all love to focus on newspaper-style visualizations, people in companies need to communicate data using dashboards. We wanted to fill that gap.
What trends and / or functionality in design dashboards would you like to see in the future?
As we increasingly consume media on mobile devices, dashboards need to be designed to work on large and small screens. Sometimes this might mean maintaining different versions, but it’s something that must be made easier for dashboard designers to support. Also, a dashboard can only answer a finite number of business questions. If they show something that needs further investigation, dashboard users must be able to dive straight into the data to ask supplemental questions.
What tips would you give to new companies looking to do design of dashboards well?
Two tips: first, never publish a dashboard without watching other people trying to use the dashboard. Leave them to use it without any training and you’ll soon discover any usability problems you need to solve. Second: iterate. Business questions and needs evolve; your dashboards should, too.
Andy Cotgreave is Technical Evangelist at Tableau Software and co-author, with Steve Wexler and Jeffrey Shaffer, of The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios (Wiley, 2017).
He has over 10 years’ experience in data visualization and business intelligence, first honing his skills as an analyst at the University of Oxford. Since joining Tableau in 2011, he has helped and inspired thousands of people with technical advice and ideas on how to build a data-driven culture in a business.
In 2016 he ran the MakeoverMonday project with Andy Kriebel, a social data project which saw over 500 people make 3,000 visualizations in one year. The project received an honourable mention in the Dataviz Project category of the 2016 Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards.
Andy has spoken at conferences around the world, including SXSW, Visualized, and Tableau’s customer conferences. He writes a column for Computerworld, Living with Data, as well as maintaining his own blog, GravyAnecdote.com.