Why I Wrote The Big Book of Dashboards

Last week was a very exciting week. The Big Book of Dashboards was officially available in the U.S. and copies ordered months earlier started to arrive. Images of people holding the book were popping up on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and notifications of shipping and social media were going crazy. It was great to have a copy in hand and to see the final result of a very long and involved process.

The whole process started two years ago. My friend Steve Wexler contacted me about being a co-author on this project. I was finishing up the year-long Dear Data Two project with Andy Kriebel so I thought the timing was good. We brainstormed about the book for about 6 months, thinking about the structure and components. We reached out to Andy Cotgreave and were thrilled when he joined the project. Then the writing began.

Why Write the Book

Before getting into why, there are two big reasons NOT to write a book: time and money. First, it's a huge time investment. I spent a countless number of nights and weekends on this project. It's not just the writing, but also reading, editing, re-reading and organizing - and there are 470 images in the book! Second, I didn't write the book for the money. Based on the time involved, I think there's easier ways to make money. For all of you that have written a book, I congratulate you on your accomplishment.

So why did I decide to do this? The short answer is, there was a need.

I do a lot of teaching and training on data visualization and Tableau. I find that most people taking these classes and workshops have had little or no training in data visualization. Even after the class students still sought guideance. There is one question that people would ask repeatedly:

   "I have this dataset that I'm trying to visualize."
   [Then they describe the data and some scenario they have]
   "What's the best way for me to visualize that?"

Our goal in writing the book was to provide dozens of examples of how organizations visualized real-world business scenarios. This book isn't filled with bad example and critiques. Instead, we found examples things that worked and explained why they worked. Our hope is that people will use this book to get ideas on how they can visualize their data. They may find a solution to their scenarios by taking a chart from one scenario and matching it with another chart from a different scenario to show

Chapter 25 is a great example of this. Steve writes in the author commentary, "we borrowed the stacked bars from Chapter 20, the large numeric KPIs from Chapter 6 and the actuals versus year-over-year comparisons are from Chapter 10". The end result is a beautifully designed dashboard for Agency Utilization.

I hope people will find The Big Book of Dashboards a useful resource. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Jeff@DataPlusScience.com

Jeffrey A. Shaffer
Follow on Twitter @HighVizAbility