Best Practise: Data Studio Dashboards

In the midst of Q4, you’re probably drowning in data already. Or you’re likely to be post-Black Friday! At times like these, no one wants to spend hours churning through reports, or figuring out on-site journeys from those rather confusing Google Analytics flow reports. We all just want to know what’s working, and what’s really been going on with our customers.

To help with the data overload, here are our top 10 tips for creating easy-to-use Data Studio reports that are bound to impress your colleagues.

1. Define your requirements

You’ve created your first Data Studio dashboard and added your data source. You are then presented with a blank canvas. Pretty intimidating, right? Deciding in which direction to take your dashboard may seem overwhelming at this stage and to overcome this, you may be tempted to dive straight in and get creative. However, doing so at this point can result in a confusing dashboard that doesn’t answer all your questions, or match what you had initially imagined.

To avoid this, it’s a good idea to define your requirements early on. Considering what key information you want to convey in your report, and who your audience will be, helps provide a framework for what you build.

Thinking about your KPIs is a good place to start. Do you really need all those metrics, or will sessions, transactions and conversion rate suffice?

2. Keep the styling simple and consistent

Data Studio offers a great variety of opportunities for customisation, and for those of us who spend our days in Excel it can be pretty enticing to get as creative as possible!

However, you’re probably after a professional and streamlined look, so try not to get too overzealous. Might be best to leave the word-art and rainbow colour scheme at the door. Sticking with a couple of complementary colours and one or two fonts will make the report easy to read and allow the audience to absorb your key points.

3. Utilise different ways of displaying information.

Data studio offers 11 different chart types, making diverse presentation of data easy to implement. Having a variety of visuals in your report will engage the viewer and help them understand what you are trying to convey more easily. When you’re choosing your chart type, have a think about what it is you’re trying to communicate. If you have more than 3-4 data points, a pie chart might not be the best solution; if you’re showing how a metric has changed over time, a line graph is likely your go-to option.

4. Add time filter controls

Adding the date range widget allows you to view data dynamically and maintains the relevance of the report, as it is easy to update the widget as time passes. Goodbye weekly reporting – or more like daily over Black Friday! – and hello to a single report that never expires.

5. Utilise Google Analytics segments

This is by far one of the most useful feature releases Google have done for Data Studio. It’s pretty impossible to create a base dashboard that meets everyone’s needs. You might be focused on customer retention, whilst your colleague is all about customer acquisition – and the report you create for the digital team on a Monday purely focuses on Mobile traffic. The magic of Data Studio is being able to create one report, with the option to bring in various Google Analytics segments in order to aid finding customer insights for different audiences.

6. Experiment with customisation

Don’t be afraid to play around with different functionalities and customise charts as needed.

A time series chart, for example, can be manipulated to appear as just a trendline rather than a detailed graph. This can be helpful in visualising top line trends at a glance. We’ve found it particularly helpful to use overall numbers (i.e. total revenue, total orders) and their % change year on year at the top of all our reports, before we delve into the details further down. This helps to easily contextualise any granular insights on performance.

7. Multi-page reports

Having all the relevant data presented on one page has merit in that the information can be communicated at a glance. However, if your dashboard starts to look cramped, this may have the opposite effect – making the report hard to read and potentially losing the interest of your audience!

To avoid this, Data Studio offers a multi-page functionality. A good tip when utilising this feature is to give each page an overarching topic. This will help keep the report organised and easy to navigate. It’s also a great idea to use the opening page as an Executive Summary, with the following pages drilling down into more detail for those that need it.

8. Data blending

Google recently introduced a data blending functionality that allows different data sources to be combined, or ‘blended’. For example, combining data from multiple GA views is now possible. This is a huge time-saver for those users who don’t have access to a data warehouse where the data is already blended for them. Perhaps you want to include a data source of margin data from Google Sheets for all your products sold. Voila: you can now generate insights across numerous sources with a few clicks of a button.

9. Use your report as a template

Data Studio allows you to create copies of your dashboard – super handy if you need to generate multiple reports with similar styles for various purposes. You can simply copy your dashboard and use this copy as a template, no need to start again from scratch!

10. Provide some detail

Customising charts and visualising data can be fun, but don’t forget to give some detail to your analysis. Not everyone is data literate and so it’s good practice to provide an explanatory label for each chart you create, including any caveats they need to be aware of (i.e. site was down for 3 hours on x date). Sometimes it’s even helpful to add a brief line of commentary, if you feel it’s particularly relevant for the point you want to communicate.