How I Amplitude Series

Good Dashboards vs. Bad Dashboards

Want to see how other product teams build growth dashboards? In our latest ‘How I Amplitude,’ Shoin Wolfe, author of Growth Analytics, talks through patterns he's seen across growth teams and what makes some dashboards drive action, and others leave teams in a reactive state.

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“Too many different charts and metrics lead to confusing visualizations. Viewers will struggle to understand how things relate to each other or what’s actually going on.”

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Shoin Wolfe
Shoka Sonjuku

Just like in vehicles, dashboards enable us to look at multiple variables and metrics to see exactly what’s going on. You can understand where the data connects and how your company functions.

But bad dashboards give them all a bad name—this is where we need an overhaul.

What makes a bad dashboard?

Three things make up a bad dashboard:

  1. Data overload
  2. Lack of actionability
  3. Inability to customize

Too many different charts and metrics lead to confusing visualizations. This can make it hard to take action from your dashboard, meaning your metrics don’t drive clear decisions or changes in your business behavior.

Rigid templates that don’t meet users’ needs are another major problem. Not being able to customize your dashboard leaves you stuck with a view that often delivers very little value.

Good dashboards are GAS

GAS is an acronym I use to describe good dashboards. It stands for Governed Actionable Storytelling.

Governed means that someone is accountable for the metric choices and making changes to the dashboard. They’re responsible for the quality of each chart, updating them according to evolving needs. This ensures your dashboards are iterable and dynamic.

Next up is actionable. Your dashboard should contain metrics that directly inform your decisions and actions. If it’s not a metric that will change your behavior, it’s most likely a bad metric and shouldn’t be included.

A key part of being actionable is also making sure your dashboards are interactive. Being able to segment and play around with dashboards helps you look into your data even deeper. Many dashboards don’t allow you to do that—with Amplitude, you can.

The final piece of the puzzle to a good dashboard is storytelling. This is often the most complex part that many people have a hard time actioning. With that in mind, let’s explore dashboard storytelling in more detail.

Good dashboards are GAS

Telling a data story through your dashboard

Dashboard storytelling helps us prevent data overload and lets us see how our metrics are related.

Many companies fall into the trap of throwing a bunch of data onto their dashboard without considering how it’s structured or which elements of it are important to what’s needed. This makes it hard to read.

Others use the inverse pyramid approach, which is when you order the information based on its importance. It usually goes from most important, to least, to “nice to know” data.

While this might work for things like articles, where readers can easily skim information, it doesn’t translate to dashboards. Viewers will struggle to understand how things relate to each other or what’s actually going on.

Pitfalls can appear even when businesses consider their dashboards’ structure. Using a chronological order from data input to key outcomes means you don’t see the most important information straight away.

Reversing the order might make better sense and lead to more actions, but it can become confusing when you break it down into layers. KPI trees are another option, they force you to choose a single avenue of how to break down your data, but can be tricky to do beyond 1 or 2 layers.

The outcome-first story

The most effective way to tell a data story through your dashboard is using the outcomes-first story. That is, you lead with the outcome first, followed by the inputs.

This method works a bit like a murder mystery: you’re already faced with the crime and want to determine what happened as the story unfolds. It’s also similar to how scientific papers are structured. You see the abstract or conclusion first, then start at the beginning before returning to the conclusion again.

In dashboards, this means you see the thing you care about the most first. Did revenue go up or down? Then you can see why that happened. Structuring our dashboards like this makes them actionable and logical.

Adopting an outcomes-first approach means:

  • Starting with your key outcomes
  • Providing context by showing the inputs that drove these outcomes
  • Flowing logically through the process from early metrics to later metrics.
The outcome-first story

GAS in action: Tips for dashboard design

Now we understand what makes a good dashboard and the best way to tell a story with it, it’s time to build a GAS dashboard.

Here are some thoughtful dashboard design principles and tips.

Choose a metrics framework

The first step in crafting a meaningful dashboard is selecting a decent framework to organize your metrics.

LAMERS Growth Metrics, similar to other popular frameworks like Pirate or Focus Metrics, gives you a structured approach to understanding product performance across the different stages of the user journey. It stands for Lead, Activation, Monetization, Engagement, Retention, and Satisfaction.

Color coding these different categories helps to clarify the relationships. Place your ultimate goal first (such as revenue) and/or your North Star metric. You can then take the viewer from the beginning of the journey to the end.

It’s also good practice to include definitions of your chosen metrics. This means anyone within your company who doesn’t know, for example, what activation is or what it means has somewhere they can click into and read quickly.

GAS in action: Tips for dashboard design

Make it scannable

Don’t overwhelm your viewers by squeezing too many charts onto one dashboard. Keep things simple by using whitespace appropriately and grouping related charts. Put high-level ones on top (taking the width of the whole dashboard) and smaller, more detailed ones below.

Doing this makes the relationships between metrics more obvious and lets users read your data comfortably. The sections should tell a story as readers scroll down.

Prioritize ‘over time’ charts

Prioritize charts and funnels that show trends over time. Static charts can hide small changes in metrics, making them less actionable.

Pie charts may show the current status but lack the ability to track your progress. Charts that depict metrics over time, such as retention or funnel analysis, are better for actionable insights.

Tracking week-over-week engagement and customer retention enables you to understand your activity retention and customer loyalty. It ensures the dashboard offers meaningful insights and actionable information for the decision-making process.

Use segmentation

Segmenting your charts like revenue data by factors such as platform (e.g., iOS, Android, or Web) and purchase type (subscription or one-time purchases) is incredibly useful.

You can also analyze your revenue by region to uncover specific trends and insights, like variations in revenue growth across different geographical areas.

Show total revenue and segmented revenue

It’s important to show both total revenue and segmented revenue data. Display the most crucial segment prominently on the main chart alongside the total revenue to give viewers a comprehensive look at performance.

This enables you to avoid the limitations of stacked charts, which can make it difficult to see the changes in individual segments over time.

By using a line chart to represent each segment separately and including the total revenue line, you can easily compare the performance of different segments and track your overall revenue trends.

Segment monetization and engagement metrics

Include dedicated segments for both monetization and engagement metrics within the design of your dashboard.

Monetization segments should focus on your main metrics, like paid conversion rate, allowing for nuanced analysis across different user groups.

Similarly, engagement metrics enable deeper insights into user behavior and usage patterns, especially when looking at the usage rates for various features across platforms.

While usage rates may not be direct goal metrics, they’re valuable indicators of user engagement trends. Analyzing feature usage by different user segments provides insights into user interaction and product value.

See your churn rate in Amplitude

Many Amplitude users aren’t aware you can also use it to display your churn rate, using a simple workaround.

Change the settings within the platform by selecting “percentage of users” and then focus only on the negative side (dormant users). With this, it’s possible to create a visualization that effectively represents the churn rate.

This method enables you to track and analyze your churn within Amplitude, helping you understand user retention and product performance.

Include satisfaction metrics

Although metrics like retention and monetization are important, they may not accurately reflect your user satisfaction. Having a dedicated segment for satisfaction metrics ensures a holistic understanding of your product performance—it’s also a crucial part of the LAMERS framework.

Include a user satisfaction rating and analyze the breakdowns to gather insights on user sentiment. Your satisfaction metrics should include more than just survey data—track other indicators such as payment authentication fail rates and time to first action.

Consider a broad range of factors contributing to satisfaction, including those that might not fit neatly into traditional metric categories. Product teams can then better identify areas for improvement and prevent user dissatisfaction.

The case for dashboards

Dashboards aren’t going anywhere—instead, it’s bad dashboards we need to get rid of.

At the moment, if you search Google for “good dashboards,” you’re actually served a collection of poor-performance dashboards. There’s a lack of resources to make better dashboards, which is where the problem lies.

A solid dashboard is as important now as when they first appeared. Take cars and planes, for example. How terrifying would it be if we only looked at their speed or acceleration? We’d never step inside a plane if a pilot said they weren’t using the cockpit dashboard—the same goes for running a business.

The case for dashboards


  • Good dashboards will always be valuable.
  • Use the GAS acronym to ensure your dashboard delivers the best possible results.
  • Tell a story with your dashboard using an outcomes-first approach.
  • Ensure the dashboard is intuitive, scannable, and contains only relevant information.
  • Think about the type of charts you use, the metrics you’re highlighting, and in what order.

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