How to Create a Dashboard in Power BI: A Simple Step-by-Step Tutorial
by Christian Ofori-Boateng on Oct 15, 2023 11:02:00 AM
One of the most integral parts of business development is the ability to use data and analyze it to get the most from it. Business intelligence tools such as Power BI can help companies make the most of customer data to create compelling reports and dashboards that ensure they don’t just put their case to the entire organization but fuels data-driven decision-making to carry out an informative analysis on customer data that informs their business.
Power BI can manage the process of data visualization, the graphical representation of information and data, based on your business’s requirements and monitor the performance of business operations, advertisement campaigns, sales, and so much more. This is why it is essential to get to grips with maximizing Power BI’s potential and, therefore, your potential in the process.
As great as this sounds, we still need to get to grips with the technical side of the equation. Learning how to create a dashboard in Power BI can be an alien concept if you don't know where to go, but this is why we're going to break it down for you in simple and actionable steps covering creating, building, making, and designing a Power BI dashboard, as well as a few other essential tips and tricks so you can get the most out of it.
Creating a Power BI Dashboard: The First Steps
If you want to harness the power of data visualization, creating a Power BI dashboard is the first step. Power BI dashboards contain multiple Power BI charts that you can use to make reports and ensure your dashboard looks attractive, yet informative. Some of the most popular BI charts include modifying colors in Power BI, Power BI tables and matrices, Power BI slices, and Power BI map visualizations. Fortunately, learning how to create a dashboard in Power BI is simple and straightforward:
Download Power BI Desktop
As with any type of software, you can start your Power BI journey by signing up. To do this:
- Go to the Power BI Home Page > Sign up free > Start free trial.
- To download Power BI Desktop, you will see a download sign ( ⤓ ) > Power BI Desktop. You can simply download it, or visit the official Power BI website.
Install Power BI Desktop
Once Power BI Desktop has been downloaded, go to the setup file and do the following:
Next > ☑I accept the terms in the License Agreement > Choose the destination folder > ☑Create a desktop shortcut > Install > ☑Launch Microsoft Power BI Desktop > Finish.
Once it is installed, the home page will open up.
Import Data to Power BI
The next step is to import the data so you can visualize it in Power BI. To do this, go to Home > Get Data > Choose a data source > Connect.
Format the Data in Power BI
Once you've imported the data, Power BI will start processing and organizing it based on what is in the Navigator Window. Before you load the data, you can format it by selecting Transform Data at the bottom of the page, which will show the summarized form of the table, or if you want to load it without formatting, click Load.
Building a Dashboard in Power BI
The main sections of the Power BI user interface include:
This is the menu selection at the top containing the appropriate functions to create more visuals and data sources, change the look of the report, and save the dashboards.
This is where your data sets and visualizations are stored. Data View shows all available data in the report, and Model View visually represents the relationship between the tables and other elements.
This allows you to navigate and edit multiple reports; you can select an existing dashboard or add a new dashboard.
This shows the possible charts and applies filters or drag fields to edit the report.
This contains the data columns loaded into the report. You can then drag selected columns into the Visualizations Pane to edit charts and add a slicer or a filter.
Now that you've got a lay of the land, you need to build your Power BI dashboard. You do this by importing and connecting to the data sources, which is absolutely essential for utilizing the data. Before you import your data source, you need to ensure Power BI supports your data modes. These can include:
- CSV files.
- Excel files.
- SQL databases.
- SharePoint lists.
- Power BI data flows and data sets.
- Other cloud-based connectors or data sources.
You can find a complete list of this by:
- Heading to the Ribbon Panel.
- Select the Home page and click the drop-down arrow under Get Data to choose the data format.
- If you don’t see your data set format, click on More to see a pop-up of all accepted data sets.
To connect your data set to Power BI:
- Under the Home page on the Ribbon tab, select Get Data.
- Choose the data set's file type.
- Select the desired data set, and/or configure the selected data source by following the prompts in the Get Data dialog box.
- You may also need to transform and “clean” the data set using the Edit Queries function to make sure your data is ready for use, which involves removing unnecessary rows, renaming columns, and other processes that may detract from the impact of the data set.
Making a Power BI Dashboard
Ensuring your reports are engaging enough to hold people's attention is critical. It is more than just using charts; we must remember it’s all about telling a story. On Power BI, there are many ways for you to do this all under the Visualizations tab.
Choosing the Best Visualization Type
After importing your data, you can create visualization elements effortlessly. You can simply click on any image underneath the Visualizations tab on the right-hand side of the panel for your preferred method, whether it's pie charts, horizontal graphs, vertical graphs, etc. If you want to add extra visualization elements, click on the Fields panel, and you can either check or drag and drop the desired field onto the Power BI dashboards.
While there are many types of visualizations you can add to your Power BI report, you don't need to add all of them. It's worth recognizing the best time to use certain visualization types. Here's the most common:
- Line charts: Often used to visualize data over a period of time, which can give you insights into trends between two or more different variables.
- Bar charts: You can compare two categories or values, either horizontally or vertically.
- Tables: Best used to display exact quantities; however, as it's not the most visually exciting type, you may be best leaving this until you have to analyze real solid sets of data.
- Heat maps: Used to display the relationship between two variables, commonly in geographic representations of data.
- Scatter plot: Best for displaying values for two variables from a data set and observing the relationship between the two. Using this alongside line charts can help you identify trends or correlations.
Customizing the Appearance and Formatting
After you have pinned the visuals, you can alter the appearance and format of the visualization to make it more aesthetically pleasing and engage people. Under Visualizations, you can the Format visual tab helps you make alterations to the following:
- Secondary Y-axis.
- Small multiples.
- Grid lines.
- Zoom slider.
- Data labels.
- Plot area background.
Next to Visual is General, and you can make changes to the following properties:
- Header icons.
- Tool tips.
- Alt text.
While there are other settings and features you could add, remember to keep it simple.
Designing a Dashboard in Power BI
A Power BI dashboard uses visualizations, but they are restricted to one page so it contains only the highlights of the story. You need to consider other components like media images, colors, and texts to ensure that you are communicating the core elements of the story, so if you add a dashboard theme, this will make the process a lot easier. You can do this by:
- Go to the dashboard in My workspace and click Edit > Dashboard theme.
- Select one of the pre-built themes, such as the custom-built themes or light.
- To create a custom-built theme, select Custom in the drop-down, and you can add videos, web content, images, or text.
Another way to create a custom theme is by uploading a JSON file which will have all the settings for the colors you want in your dashboard. You can do this on the Power BI community via the theme gallery page. To add videos, texts, and images:
- Click on + Add a tile.
- You can then add the media of your choice.
Adding Reports to Power BI Dashboard
If you have loaded the data set, you can now build the dashboard by adding report pages and visuals and organizing and arranging the dashboard components. Firstly to add Report pages and visuals, you can create a new report by doing the following:
- Go to the Workspace.
- Click on Create > Report.
- Pin a visual to add from the Visualizations pane.
- Add relevant data to the visualization using the drag-and-drop fields in the Data Pane and move them into the chart.
- Edit the appearance to create an aesthetic and consistent dashboard.
If you want to organize and arrange the dashboard components, this can add an aesthetic value and appeal to the design to ensure that the visuals pop and you can consider some of the following:
- Changing space in margins phases.
- Providing enough object spacing in and around each chart.
- Make changes to the sizing and what is a priority in a visual sense.
- Changing color to draw readers' attention to specific sections; this includes making darker backgrounds, which have become more popular in Power BI, to ensure your visuals stand out.
Editing Power BI Dashboard
If you want to make changes to your Power BI dashboard, there are a number of things you can do, including moving tiles, resizing them, as well as editing key details.
To move the tile, you go to the dashboard, locate the tile, and select and hold it to drag it to a new location on the dashboard canvas. You can resize the tile from 1x1 up to 5x5, which you do by selecting and dragging the bottom right-hand corner to easily resize the tile.
- Click on More options (...) in the upper-right corner of the tile.
- Hovering over the Amount tile, you can select different options which vary by size and type.
- Click on Edit details, which takes you to the Tile details box.
At the Tile details box, you can do some of the following:
- Change the name of the title.
- Alter the default hyperlink by clicking on the Tile details dialog in Functionality, and selecting Set custom link, and pasting a link before selecting Apply.
- Pinning the tile to a different dashboard by clicking More options (...) on the upper-right corner of the tile, selecting Pin tile to pin a duplicate of this tile to an existing dashboard or onto a new dashboard, and selecting Pin.
- Deleting the tile by going to More options (...) > Delete tile. Please note that deleting a tile doesn't delete the visualization, so check the underlying report by selecting Amount and open the last page in your report, and you will see the original visualization hasn't been deleted from the report.
Saving and Sharing Power BI Dashboard
Once you have visualized the data and created the different types of plots you need to save them:
- Click File > Save.
- Choose an appropriate name and click Save.
There are many ways to share and collaborate in Power BI within a Workspace or collaborate in Microsoft Teams, but if you want to share data with coworkers or others, sharing is the best way to give people access to the dashboards inside or outside the organization. You can share in the following places:
- From My Workspace.
- Other workspaces if you have an Admin or Member role.
- From other Power BI mobile apps.
- From Power BI Desktop with SharePoint and OneDrive integration.
- From Power BI Desktop to the Power BI service.
You can share a report by link by:
- Select Share any list of reports or an open report, and you can share via Outlook, PowerPoint, and Teams.
- Select if you want to Share to people in your organization and what they can do, for example, just view it or view and share it.
- Select Copy link.
You can also send the link to specific people or groups by entering their name or email address, typing an optional message, and selecting Send.
To share a dashboard:
- In a list of dashboards or an open dashboard, select Share.
- In the Share dashboard dialog, you can grant users or groups direct access to the dashboard:
- Enter the name or email address of the user or group, type an optional message, and select Grant access.
To grant dashboard access to a single person, follow the same process, but you can also specify if you want to grant users the following permissions:
- Reshare permissions, where recipients can share the dashboard to others.
- Build permissions, where recipients can build content with the dashboard data.
- Share the dashboard with guest users whose addresses are outside your organization; however, guest users can't reshare dashboards themselves.
6 Tips for Creating an Effective Power BI Dashboard
As powerful as this analytics tool is designing eye-catching Power BI dashboards, it is about making sure you have some of the following in mind:
Use a Theme
The theme will include colors, fonts, backgrounds, visualizations, and the color the filter pane will appear in. While you can only implement a theme on the desktop app, once it is set, you can save it for future reports. This makes a big difference to your reports because it will look more striking, and once you've decided on a theme that truly carries the information across, you will save a lot of time in the future as you’ve found the ideal elements.
Don't Overcomplicate the Dashboard
Dashboards provide one place for you to view your key data, and having all of the tiles on one screen is the best approach. When editing the dashboard, think about what is essential and remove everything that is not, making it far easier for users to digest the information.
Consider the Page Layout
When you are thinking about how you place your data and where the most important information should be, ensure you don't over-complicate it, but also keep the most important information up in the top left-hand corner. People read from left to right in the Western world, so bear this in mind as you move across and down the page.
Use Slicers and Bookmarks
Adding slicers to the report will ensure the report looks better and easier to use. Experiment with different types of slicers such as sliders and lists and see which looks best. Additionally, if your page is looking too full, using bookmarks can show and disguise visualizations, which can be a great way to put across as much information as possible without over-complicating your displays.
Think About the Right Visualization for the Data
The visualizations, above all else, should be easy to interpret. If you want to make key data sets stand out, cards will be ideal, but if you are trying to show numbers, you will be better off with charts. When it comes to selecting and using visualizations, you need to bear in mind the following:
- Don't mix the measures on the same scale.
- Be consistent with the chart scale with regard to dimensions, colors, and axes.
- Be aware of which type of circular chart is best. For example, a pie chart may be best if there are fewer than seven categories, which makes them easier to compare.
- Explore what is right for you and be sure to decide on the format for your visualization before you incorporate the data to create a professional look.
Think About Your Audience
When you're designing your dashboard, consider the audience. You don't want to overload them with so many eye-catching visuals to the point where they're not able to discern the salient points. Think about who is going to use the dashboard and how.
The dashboard is an overview of your reports and data sets that should be, above all else, simple. The acronym "keep it simple, stupid" especially applies to Power BI dashboards because, ultimately, your audience can find greater detail from your dashboard later on, so you don't need to put all of it into your presentation right there and then.
This also means if you are presenting information to remote teams, you should consider the device you will be viewing the dashboard from. A large presentation can include more content, but if the team is viewing it on desktops, tablets, or even smartphones, a dashboard with fewer tiles will be easier to digest.
When you consider your audience, you should also think about how you deliver these reports. With tools like PBRS™, you can instantly deliver Power BI reports as part of the email's body to make for quick and effortless viewing.
Ensuring that you know how to create a dashboard in Power BI will guarantee that you create an impactful statement that showcases exactly what you want to achieve. These days we need to get across the point quickly, especially when it comes to lots and lots of data.
Power BI is an invaluable tool because it allows you to visualize data and reports in a variety of formats, depending on your specific preferences and requirements. Because Power BI's accessibility is down to its reliance on some familiar knowledge sets across popular programs like Microsoft Excel, knowing how to create a Power BI dashboard quickly and effortlessly will ensure that the next time you've got to present a large selection of data and make an instant impact, you certainly can.
Take the Benefits of Power BI to the Next Level With PBRS
The benefits and use cases of Power BI are broad-reaching, and are only set to become more so alongside growing data sets. For companies who increasingly rely on the efficient handling of data from all angles, Power BI’s benefits can be taken even further.
Power BI can help you get to grips with what your data is telling you, but PBRS, our SSRS and Power BI Reporter Scheduler, enables you to manage those insights more easily. With capabilities that include routine reporting, report merging, automatic distribution, and event-triggered reporting as required, PBRS can deliver insights where you need them, when you need them, with limited input required.
Whether you’re using Power BI to set KPIs, simplify collaborations, or track specific promotional events, the regular scheduling, updates, and insights possible with PBRS can keep you on track, professional, and in the know.
Simply download your free trial today to see how PBRS can take your Power BI journey from strength to strength.
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