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  • Writer's pictureOscar Martinez

Dashboard design UX basics - Whitespace and Alignment

Updated: Mar 6

Apple trees
Apple trees

Optimizing Dashboard Design with Whitespace and Alignment: Key Strategies for UX and BI Integration

After some years of taking care of some apple trees in my garden, I've learned that a healthy tree requires an essential element: whitespace.

A healthy dashboard, much like a flourishing apple tree, requires essential elements: space and strategic layout. In BI dashboard design, the 'garden' thrives on whitespace ('negative space') and alignment, crucial for optimal air circulation (user navigation) and sun exposure (data visibility). By defeating clutter, we embrace BI Dashboard Design UX Best Practices, ensuring our dashboards are as deliciously appealing and functional as well-grown apples.


What is whitespace?

Whitespace is the space in your dashboard that doesn't contain any element. Whitespace is also known as "negative space" in some design circles (as it doesn't need to be white)."

Below, I will mention some of the whitespace elements and uses that are good to keep in mind while designing your next awesome dashboard.

1. Types of whitespace by its size.

1.1 Macro whitespace: The ample space surrounding your report. Enough macro whitespace will give your design the feeling of openness and clarity.

1.2 Micro whitespace: The space between the elements of your dashboard: The distance between visuals, between title and borders, between lines in a text, etc.

Micro and macro whitespace in your dashboard
Whitespace types

2. Types of whitespace by its usefulness

2.1 Active whitespace: The space that you consciously leave for purposes of structure, highlight, and delimitation.

2.2 Passive whitespace: this is the "natural" space you didn't put on purpose, but it is still important to manage, like the space between words, lines of text, or surrounding your graph.

3. Uses for whitespace

Having mentioned the types of whitespace, now it's time to understand its use.

3.1 Highlight elements: A good dashboard should direct the user's eyes where it matters, that is, to the most critical content; whitespace can help us to do so by creating a visual hierarchy.


Use whitespace to highlight elements
Use whitespace to highlight elements

3.2 Element grouping. A primary Gestalt principle is the one of "proximity," which claims that things closer to each other appear to have a stronger relationship than the ones that are apart. This principle is applied well to whitespace's grouping or related graphs or KPIs.

Groups of visuals in a dashboard
Use of whitespace for grouping

3.4 Increase content legibility/comprehension. Whitespace between your visuals will help people understand what they are looking at; reducing clutter will support your users to focus on the message you are trying to give by improving legibility.

3.4 Legibility in narratives: Each day it is more common to find AI generated narratives in dashboards; here we need to pay special attention to the whitespace between lines and paragraphs.

Two pieces of text with different whitespace.
Whitespace use for content legibility

3.6 Legibility in Tables. Similarly to plain text, it is very important leaving enough space between the rows of our tables, the result will be a more enjoyable and understandable table.

Alignment

Alignment is a fundamental concept in dashboard design, crucial for creating a structured, coherent, and visually appealing interface. It refers to the arrangement of elements in a way that lines them up along a common edge or center. This principle helps in organizing information, making it easier to navigate and understand at a glance.


Dashboard visuals alignment examples
Dashboard alignment

1. Importance of Alignment

1.1 Visual Order: Alignment creates a clean, ordered look that is aesthetically pleasing. It reduces visual clutter, making the dashboard appear more professional and easier to read.

1.2 Improved Readability: By aligning text and visuals, you enhance the flow of information, guiding the user's eye from one element to the next seamlessly.

1.3 Consistency: Applying consistent alignment throughout the dashboard fosters a sense of unity and harmony, reinforcing the design's overall effectiveness.

1.4 Focus: Proper alignment helps to emphasize key information, directing attention to critical data points or actions.

2. Implementing Alignment

Dashboard grids
Dashboard grids

2.1 Grid Systems: Utilizing a grid helps in maintaining consistent spacing and alignment across different sections.

2.2 Visual Hierarchy: Align elements in a way that reflects their importance, using alignment to guide the viewer's eye through the information logically.

Final Words.

Contrary to the belief that whitespace equals wasted space, it's the strategic use of whitespace and alignment that transforms dashboards from mere data displays to compelling visual stories. Whitespace brings harmony and balance, while alignment directs the user's gaze, creating a seamless narrative flow.

This synergy enhances legibility and understanding, ensuring your message isn't just seen but felt. Much like the perfect arrangement of apples in a basket makes them more appealing, a dashboard thoughtfully designed with these principles in mind becomes not only visually attractive but functionally intuitive, delivering a user experience that is as satisfying as it is insightful..


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