Dashboards and strategy maps look even better when you use image widgets creatively. For example, you can create a precise layout that looks exactly like the presentations your leadership team is is used to seeing. This is just a screenshot of a PowerPoint slide with dashboard widgets on top.
Or you can spice up your dashboard with translucent layout elements, like these Aviation and Travel background images.
You can even overlap map images with colored bubbles that show the performance. This example shows small performance bubbles on European cities.
In this article we'll show you the general approach to using background images on dashboards and strategy maps.
Creating the Image
Let's start with a real-world example. The Balanced Scorecard Institute uses this slide in some of their training materials, and it's a great example of a strategic planning and management system. How would you get something like this into Spider Impact?
First, let's remove all of the information on the slide that we don't want to show up in Spider Impact. In PowerPoint that means hiding background graphics. This removes the slide header and footers.
Now we're going to remove all information on this slide that we want to automatically update based on live data in Spider Impact. We end up with this:
Finally we need to turn that slide into an image, and there are a variety of ways you can do this. PowerPoint has the ability to export slides as images, but if you do that, you'll need to edit the image to crop off the extra white space on the edges. Instead, we're going to take a screenshot of just the relevant part of the slide.
In Windows you can do this by Windows Key + Shift + S, selecting the region you want, and then pasting it into Paint. On Mac you can do this with CMD + Shift + 4 and it will save the image to your desktop.
Make sure the image is large enough so that it doesn't look pixelated on your dashboard. You'll usually be in good shape if your image is at least 1,600 pixels wide. In this example the screenshot is actually 3,200 pixels wide because I want it to look good on high resolution screens.
Compressing the Image
Large dashboard images load slowly, so we want to make sure the file size isn't too big. Most dashboard background images will work best in the PNG format because they're made of solid colors. If yours has a lot of gradients or photos, however, JPEG may be a better choice.
Raw PNG images can be very large, though, so we're going to reduce the file size before we use our screenshot in Spider Impact. There are a variety of tools to do this, and here we're going to use ImageAlpha and ImageOptim, both of which are for Mac.
ImageAlpha reduces the size of PNGs by changing the number of colors in their color palate. In this example our background image still looks great with only 16 colors, and its size is only 10% of what it was before. Every image is different, though, and you'll often be best at 128 or 64 colors. Be sure to zoom in on the details to make sure you're not over-compressing.
Next we'll use ImageOptim to strip off all of the extra metadata and make the file as small as possible. This app works with any image format and has saved us an additional 12%.
By using these two apps, we've gone from 825K to 77K. Again, there are many image compression utilities available that do this exact same thing.
Creating Your Dashboard
Now it's time to add your dashboard. Be sure to resize it large enough so that there's plenty of room to add content, and the lock it in place.
And finally we'll add widgets. Here we've added bubbles for the objectives, measures, targets, and initiatives. For the Measures, Targets, and Initiatives we've turned off the bubble background so only the text shows up. That way you can click on the text to drill down for more information.
When we're done we have a fully interactive dashboard showing live data, all in a format that our organization is familiar with.