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How to Present the Information

Dashboards are meant to convey essential information quickly and clearly on one screen. Most importantly they do so based on their visual design. Visual design is much more than nice graphs and spreadsheets. It involves how human beings perceive and act upon visual information, a science in the realm of human factors and cognitive psychology. Although this may sound like you'll need a PhD to understand it, it actually is somewhat intuitive.

It all starts with something known as preattentive variables. These are the attributes of the dashboard that humans subconsciously pay attention to before they consciously know they are paying attention (thus preattentive attributes.) This innate perceptual and cognitive capacity to pay attention unconsciously evolved in human centuries ago. So if you're designing a dashboard to quickly display information, you take into account the preattentive variables to get the user's attention before they know they're paying attention.

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