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Three easy things you can do to improve the design of any Power BI report – Towards Data Science

May 31, 2024

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Michal Butkiewicz
Towards Data Science

PowerBi is a powerful tool. But, as many complex products, it has some limitations. For almost all of them, there are some workarounds you can do to make your development and the life of a typical user easier. Let’s talk about them.
Colours. Meh. Boring. But at the same time you don’t want your report to look like a piece of sh*t, do you? You don’t want your report developed in 2020 to look as created in the times of Windows 95. Why? Because nowadays everyone is used to good looking interfaces, good looking devices and good looking tools and websites which are a) functional, b) user-friendly and c) simply beautiful.
All companies have their own style guides or brand books which are basically pdf documents with a set of rules that explain how your brand works. For us, the most important will be colours we have to use to make our report look like a branded one. An example. If you are working on a report for Spotify, make it look like a Spotify itself. Use the proper logo, use correct colours, add colours for chart consistent with a brand and voila. Your report will look modern, professional and no one will accidentally think this report is about Facebook. But one more disclaimer here because I know what you want to say now. Yes, the app itself is in the dark mode. I know and that’s fine. But when it comes to readability, the light mode is easier on your eyes. Spotify app is not designed for reading and analysing data. PowerBI, on the contrary.
You unlock your phone and see icons. You open an Instagram app and see pictures and icons as navigation. You open Spotify (no, they are not paying me for this, but they could 💸) and to search for an artist you tap on a magnifier glass, which is a widely recognized icon symbolising search functionality. Icons are one of the most popular building blocks of any User Interface (UI). So tell me why, if you type in Google Images “Power BI report”, first 14 examples of reports DO NOT USE ICONS AT ALL?
So why YOU should use icons in the Power BI report? They are great to grab the user’s attention and enhance the user experience(UX). They serve functionality and create a good looking report.
Let’s say you are looking for a KPI. Total revenue. Which tile grabs your attention faster? The one with a name “Total Revenue” on it or the one one with a name “Total Revenue” and a fat dollar sign on it?
But beware! Two things to consider:
Who doesn’t love tabs (and I am not talking about bathtubs here)? It’s a simple and effective way of switching between reports. Data scientists are familiar with them from working with Excel, we are using them in Power BI, so why would you like to change it? The answer is simple and very politically correct — some people might have bad memories of using Excel. Some people think about it as evil😼
So why not improve the overall user experience of the report and create a landing page, from which the user can navigate to any available report without using tabs? This is the flow.
The user always starts on the landing page. From here, she can decide what report she is interested in. To open a specific report, the user just clicks on it. The report opens. If the user wants to see other reports, she can click on the company’s name and return to the landing page.
So why o why? Because this is a pattern available on every single website on the internet. You click on the logo (or that name) to return to the homepage. Nothing new here. Everything is clear and everyone, who used the internet just once, knows how it works. So why not to re-use this pattern in PowerBI?
About the Author
I am a Senior UX and Product Designer fond of people, data and Golden Retrievers. Choose your poison and follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter or Medium.

Towards Data Science
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