Sketch Before You Build

When coming up with ideas about how to visualize data, I've always found that sketching first always helps!

This month’s SWD Challenge seemed very well timed as a dashboard I’d just finished working on had started life as a simple sketch. ✏️

Putting pencil to paper

I’ve been a long-time fan of sketching my ideas and experimenting on paper instead of diving straight into ‘build mode’. I find that getting some of the ideas which are floating around in my head down on paper frees up space in my mind to tackle the problem at hand.

Email marketing dashboard

In January, I started working on an email marketing performance dashboard. There were many requirements, the main one being that email campaigns could be tagged by Category, Subcategory, and Strategy - and that the performance of emails with the same tags could be compared over time.

After discussing the requirements with the team, the first thing I did was sketch out a few ideas. After a couple of iterations, this is what I came up with and what I eventually ended up building in Tableau.

The top table has all the metrics for all emails - if there’s an A/B test in a certain week, then it provides a side-by-side comparison of all the metrics.

The chart is designed to let users select one of 8 metrics and one of 3 tags (Category, Subcategory, or Strategy). The idea is to use distinctly coloured marks for different tag values.

The final build

Here’s a screenshot how the Tableau dashboard I built ended up looking.

It’s designed to be as user friendly and intuative to use as possible, with buttons used to filter the view as needed.

No distractions

Sketching on paper before moving straight into Tableau gave me more freedom to try out different layouts without any distractions or limitations.

Drawing buttons on paper also meant I had to learn how to build them in Tableau - if I’d started in Tableau instead of on paper, I don’t think I would have considered this as it’s not a standard feature.

See you at the next SWD challenge!