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Designing Dashboards: Sending Your Style Vibe

2017-01-21 – 12:24 PM

OK I admit it, I’m a font geek.If I visit a website with a gross font, I don’t go back. It’s true. Want me to adore you?  Send me an email in my favorite font – it will impress me. It communicates your style vibe and if we are on the same wavelength, then you must be adorable!!
Style is what makes users want to look …

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SAS Visual Analytics: Design Versus Reality

2016-10-05 – 7:12 AM

Recently, Alan Hjemsted Muller from Denmark contacted me with some additional ideas about he had with solving dashboard issues. He provided a gorgeous dashboard that is used in the Elsinore Municipality.


This dashboard (in Danish) – it is about a kindergarten.  He offered to send it in English but I like it in Danish. It allows you to focus more on the design because your eyes are not busy interpreting the information. I really love the color palette. Alan noted they used the Agency FB font instead of Arial or Verdana to give it an infographic look. How clever.


Consider Your Users

In my Planning your SAS Visual Analytics Dashboard post, I suggested using horizontal containers to keep the objects aligned and employ color for the eye. Alan advised me to consider your user community. He noted that the users in his community had laptops that featured small screens and low resolution. While you may have a large monitor to create your design, your users may not. Remember to test your design on the end user’s monitor size.

This creates a conflict in your beautiful design versus the real world of hardware. This is especially true when you use container objects. Containers don’t allow users to enlarge graphs. I can see how that is an issue when working with a small screen. Alan’s solution is to use the precision mode. This feature allows you to have exact control over the placement while allowing the end user the ability to zoom.

You can turn on Precision Mode in the Properties pane. Just set Layout from Tiled to Precision. Your object will change so that they have points (similar to MS Visio if you are familiar with that tool). You can then move the objects exactly where you want them. You can use the Size and Position on the pane if you prefer to want to align objects.


This issue also underlines another point I like to make about dashboard design, iterate! Once you have a working design ask your user community to look at it. It assists with uncovering issues like the one Alan has noted.

Serving Invisible Pie

In my Planning your SAS Visual Analytics Dashboard post, I suggested using a single table cell and noted it did not work great. Alan has a more ingenious solution, use a pie chart. Here’s his suggestion:

“Instead, try with a pie chart – this is the only element (as far as I know) where you can get rid of the borders. Use a white fill color on a white background and the pie chart will become “invisible” only showing the actual values (tick mark ‘Show actual values’ in the data label setting on the properties pane). So I guess the pie chart can be a useful graph anyway.”

In SAS VA 7.3, I loaded the SASHELP.CARS dataset for this technique. You can only use a single value for this technique, so I changed the MPG (Highway) to Aggregation of Average and Format = Float and adjusted the numbers.

  1. Add a Pie Chart object to your layout. Drag Origin to the Category role and drag the modified MPG (Highway) to Measures role.
  2. In the Properties pane, make the following changes to your pie chart object so that is resembles the figure below:

    • Add a title like KPI1 and make it bold. Set the font size to 18 pt.
    • Uncheck the Show label checkbox.
    • Check the Show actual values checkbox.
    • Set Data label location to Inside.
    • Uncheck Show legend.
  3. In the Style pane, change the following so it resembles this unsightly figure:

    • Change the Font family to a larger, boxy font (such as Impact, Agency FB).
    • Change the Value so the size is 60 pt and set the color you want.
    • Reset the first Fill color to White.  You can set the first three colors to white if your value is showing in a different pie slice.
  4. In the Filter pane, add a filter for Origin = Asia so the object is displaying a single value. Then … va_designvsreal_05

I love this technique because it is so elegant and clever.  You know what I also love?  SAS USERS! No other product I have used has the same amount of support and sharing of information. If you cannot figure out how to solve an issue, just look around there is someone who does.  Thanks Alan.


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Seize the Day! Submit an #SASGF Abstract

2016-09-21 – 6:32 AM

Are you considering submitting an abstract for SAS Global Forum 2017? Maybe you have already read the posts about how it helps your career and the excitement of sharing ideas. What is holding you back? Maybe you don’t have an idea, maybe you fear presentations, or maybe you just are unsure of the process.
I don’t have a idea
I bet this is the number one concern …

Planning Your SAS Visual Analytics Dashboard

2016-06-06 – 6:41 AM

A dashboard starts with planning. In my last post, we talked about gauges and when you want to use them. In this post, we will apply the gauges to a dashboard. Gauges cannot live by themselves – they need supporting information. It must be clear how the information supports the gauges. I’ll use the same dashboard but with some different gauges. You can determine what worked …

Why Dashboard Gauges Aren’t as Bad as You Think

2016-05-22 – 2:57 PM

Dashboard gauges were once the darling of the executive suite. Some designer took inspiration from a car dashboard and its gauges. A gauge is useful because it tells us how fast we are going or how much gas is in the tank. My newer model dashboard still has gauges but it also states how many miles until empty. That information is more useful than knowing how much gas is in the …

SAS Visual Analytics: Bubble Plots for Less Toil and Trouble

2016-04-24 – 12:55 PM

You cannot research bubble plots from any data visualization expert without reading a reference to the Hans Rosling’s Ted Talk Let My Dataset Change Your Mindset. It may have been the first time a bubble plot gained a mainstream appeal noted Stephen Few in his Show Me the Numbers book. Rosling provided an intense amount of information in one data visualization and he changed my mindset. Here’s some …

SAS VA Data Builder: Add a New Data Item

2016-02-05 – 9:25 AM

The SAS Visual Analytics Data Builder allows you to prepare and load data to the SAS LASR Server so you can complete analysis or build reports and dashboards. It’s a little more tricky to use than some of the other parts of SAS Visual Analytics but can usually be mastered within a day. If you need to add a data item to your data table, …