How To Create An Interactive Dashboard In Ms Excel


Excel Dboard

Excel is a spreadsheet program from Microsoft and a component of its Office product group for business applications. Microsoft Excel enables users to format, organize and calculate data in a spreadsheet.

By organizing data using software like Excel, data analysts and other users can make information easier to view as data is added or changed. Excel contains a large number of boxes called cells that are ordered in rows and columns. Data is placed in these cells.

Excel is a part of the Microsoft Office and office 365 suites and is compatible with other applications in the Office suite. The spreadsheet software is available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS platforms.


Features of MS Excel

Various editing and formatting can be done on an Excel spreadsheet. Discussed below are the various features of MS Excel.

The image below shows the composition of features in MS Excel:

Features of MS Excel

  • Home
    • Comprises options like font size, font styles, font colour, background colour, alignment, formatting options and styles, insertion and deletion of cells and editing options
  • Insert
    • Comprises options like table format and style, inserting images and figures, adding graphs, charts and sparklines, header and footer option, equation and symbols
  • Page Layout
    • Themes, orientation and page setup options are available under the page layout option
  • Formulas
    • Since tables with a large amount of data can be created in MS excel, under this feature, you can add formulas to your table and get quicker solutions
  • Data
    • Adding external data (from the web), filtering options and data tools are available under this category
  • Review
    • Proofreading can be done for an excel sheet (like spell check) in the review category and a reader can add comments in this part
  • View
    • Different views in which we want the spreadsheet to be displayed can be edited here. Options to zoom in and out and pane arrangement are available under this category

For those willing to learn more about MS Excel, can refer to the video given below and understand every small aspect of this program in detail.

Excel terminology and components

Excel has its own terminology for its components, which new users may not immediately find understandable. Some of these terms and components include the following:

  • Cell. A user enters data into a cell, which is the intersection of a column and row.
  • Cell reference. This is the set of coordinates where a cell is located. Rows are horizontal and numbered whereas columns are vertical and assigned a letter.
  • Active cell. This is the currently selected cell, outlined by a green box.
  • Workbook. This is an Excel file that contains one or more worksheets.
  • Worksheet. These are the different documents nested within a Workbook.
  • Worksheet tab. These are the tabs at the bottom left of the spreadsheet.
  • Column and row headings. These are the numbered and lettered cells located just outside of the columns and rows. Selecting a header highlights the entire row or column.
  • Formula. Formulas are mathematical equations, cell references or functions that can be placed inside a cell to produce a value. Formulas must start with an equal “=” sign.
  • Formula bar. This is the long input bar that is used to enter values or formulas in cells. It is located at the top of the worksheet, next to the “fx” label.
  • Address bar. This bar located to the left of the formula bar shows the number and letter coordinates of an active cell.
  • Filter. These are rules a user can employ to select what rows in a worksheet to display. This option is located on the top right of the home bar under “Sort & Filter.” An auto filter option can be selected to show rows that match specific values.
  • AutoFill. This feature enables users to copy data to more than one cell automatically. With two or more cells in a series, a user can select both cells and drag the bottom right corner down to autofill the rest of the cells.
  • AutoSum. This feature enables users to add multiple values. Users can select the cells they want to add and press the Alt and Equal keys. There is also a button to enable this feature on the top right of the home page, above “Fill” and to the left of “Sort & Filter.”
  • PivotTable. This data summarization tool sorts and calculates data automatically. This is located under the insert tab on the far left.
  • PivotChart. This chart acts as a visual aid to the PivotTable, providing graph representations of the data. It is located under the middle of the insert page, next to maps.
  • Source data. This is the information that is used to create a PivotTable.

Benefits of Using MS Excel

MS Excel is widely used for various purposes because the data is easy to save, and information can be added and removed without any discomfort and less hard work.

Given below are a few important benefits of using MS Excel:

  • Easy To Store Data: Since there is no limit to the amount of information that can be saved in a spreadsheet, MS Excel is widely used to save data or to analyse data. Filtering information in Excel is easy and convenient.
  • Easy To Recover Data: If the information is written on a piece of paper, finding it may take longer, however, this is not the case with excel spreadsheets. Finding and recovering data is easy.
  • Application of Mathematical Formulas: Doing calculations has become easier and less time-taking with the formulas option in MS excel
  • More Secure: These spreadsheets can be password secured in a laptop or personal computer and the probability of losing them is way lesser in comparison to data written in registers or piece of paper.
  • Data at One Place: Earlier, data was to be kept in different files and registers when the paperwork was done. Now, this has become convenient as more than one worksheet can be added in a single MS Excel file.
  • Neater and Clearer Visibility of Information: When the data is saved in the form of a table, analysing it becomes easier. Thus, information is a spreadsheet that is more readable and understandable.

Competitive exam aspirants must also be aware of other subjects which are a part of the Government exam syllabus. To review and analyse the same, refer to the links below:

How To Create An Interactive Dashboard In Ms Excel

What is an Excel Dashboard?

First, let’s start with the basics. The simplest way to think of a dashboard is as a visual representation of data.

Raw data can be hard to look at. Sure, the need-to-know digits are there. But, all of those rows and columns are often impossible to process and understand.

This is where dashboards  come into play. They turn data into information (yes, those are two different things!) by creating different charts, tables, and other visual elements that give you a high-level overview of that data.

A dashboard simplifies that otherwise complex data you have in your spreadsheet and transforms it into something visual that’s far easier for you to grasp and, thus, utilize.

Needless to say, dashboards have a wide array of uses—from budgeting or project management to marketing or sales reporting.

For a simple example, I used a dashboard to transform this spreadsheet of first quarter expenses:

excel_dashboard_expenses_tutorialInto this quick pie chart that shares a breakdown of where money was spent during January:

excel_dashboard_pi_chartThis example is relatively straightforward. But, Excel has tons of capabilities to create as complex of a dashboard as you require.

Before building the Dashboard: what you should know

Data visualization sounds like a real party, doesn’t it? We can tell that you’re ready and raring to get started building your own dashboards.

However, before doing so, it’s essential that you lay the appropriate groundwork first. Here are a few things you’ll want to do before getting started on a dashboard:

1. Import your data into Excel

In order to create a dashboard, your data first needs to exist in Excel. If it’s already there? Great—there’s nothing more you need to do with this step.

But, if not? You’ll need to import it into an Excel workbook.

There are numerous ways to do this with ranging complexities—depending on where your data exists currently. So, your best bet is to research how to import your specific data format.

2. Clean your data

When working with data within Excel, it’s important that each piece of information lives within its own cell.

If your existing spreadsheet is a bit of a jumbled mess, take some time to clean it up and ensure that things are organized into their appropriate rows and columns. It’s also wise to briefly analyze your data and make sure that no glaring typos or errors jump out at you.

Now is also an excellent time to search for any duplicate information that needs to be deleted, because each row of data needs to be unique in order to utilize the dashboard feature—otherwise you’ll be double counting.

Want a quick way to search for duplicates? Highlight your entire dataset and then click the “Remove Duplicates” button.

TIP: It’s best to keep your original dataset somewhere else. That way, if you make an error, you’ll be able to retrieve the data that you started with.

3. Set up your workbook

To create a dashboard, you’re going to need three separate sheets (or tabs) within your Excel workbook.

Name your first tab (the one that has all of your raw data on it) with something you’ll readily recognize—such as “Data” or “Raw Data.”

Then, create a second tab labeled “Chart Data.” That tab is where you’ll store only the data that needs to be fed into different charts for the dashboard. Finally, create a tab labeled “Dashboard” where your various charts will appear.

You can leave those last two tabs totally blank for now! The important part is just to get your workbook set up and ready to work with.


4. Understand your requirements

When you start familiarizing yourself with dashboards in Excel, you’ll quickly realize that there are tons of options. Admittedly, that can be overwhelming—which is why it’s important to get clear on the why of your dashboard first.

What’s your goal with this dashboard? Do you need to track progress? Analyze a budget? Identify trends?

By considering that first and foremost—as well as things like who you’ll need to share this with and what format it will need to be in—you’ll be empowered to design a dashboard that fits your needs.

How to create an Excel Dashboard

1. Figure out which charts best represent your data

You know how we just said you’ll be faced with tons of options to represent your data? We weren’t kidding—there are bar charts column charts pie charts, line charts, scatter plots, water fall charts and so many more.

However, not all of them will be the best fit for the data that you want to represent. For example, a line chart is excellent for analyzing trends while a pie chart is effective for looking at a snapshot in time.

Not sure which chart is the best choice for you? Your best bet is to play around. Create a few different charts, look at the results, and see which ones make the most sense for displaying your data in an easily digestible manner.

With so many options, we couldn’t possibly dive into every chart type in detail here. So, instead, we’re going to dip our toes into the dashboard waters by focusing on the step-by-step process for creating one specific type of chart: a column chart.

We’ll stick with the same budget data set that we used above. Our goal is to create column charts that will display how much we spend on each individual budget line item per month in the first quarter. This means that we’ll end up with separate charts for electricity, gas, phone, etc.

Ready? Let’s get started.

2. Filter your data

When creating a chart, you’re not going to need to use all of your data at once—you’ll need to filter through it to focus on only the pieces you need at that given time.

The easiest way to do this is by using the “Filter” option within Excel. For example, we want to filter by item type and only see numbers related to our electricity expenses.

To do that, we’ll highlight the entire data set, click the “Data” ribbon in the toolbar, and then click the “Filter” button. When doing so, you’ll see that little arrows appear next to your column headers. If you click one of those arrows, you’ll be presented with a drop-down menu that you can use to filter your data.

Excel_dashboards_filter_dataWhen you’ve filtered down to only the data that you want, highlight all of the cells of data, hit “copy,” and then paste only those rows into your “Chart Data” tab of your workbook. That’s the tab that you’ll pull data from when building your charts.

Why can’t you just select data from your regular “Data” tab? Well, put simply, because even though you’ve filtered the data, those other irrelevant rows are still included there (albeit hidden)—meaning they’ll throw things off in your chart.

3. Build your chart

Now that you have only the data that you need, you’re ready to begin building your chart.

Click on the “Dashboard” tab of your worksheet, click the “Insert” button in the toolbar, and then select the type of chart you want from the menu. In this case, we’re going to use a clustered column chart.

When you insert the chart, you’ll see a blank box. Don’t worry—you haven’t screwed anything up. We’ll cover how to get your data to appear there in the next step.

Excel_dashboards_build_chartTIP: Still aren’t sure which chart option is the best fit for your data? Highlight all of your rows of data in your “Chart Data” tab and then click “Recommended Charts” within the “Insert” ribbon. Excel will suggest some charts for you to use.

4. Select your data

Now that you have that blank box inserted in your “Dashboard” tab of your workbook, it’s time to pull some data in.

To do so, right-click on that box and then choose “Select Data.” After that, navigate over to your “Chart Data” tab (where your filtered data is living) and highlight all of the data that you want to display—minus the column headers. In this case, we’re selecting the “Item” and “Cost” data, since the purpose of my chart is to show how much we spend on electricity each month.

That data that you just selected is for the vertical axis. But, you still need to select your data for the horizontal axis of your chart.

To do that, click the button within the “Horizontal Axis” field of the “Select Data” popup and then highlight the information you need for the horizontal axis—in this case, the months.

After doing so, hit your “Enter” key, click “OK,” and then head over to your “Dashboard” tab to ensure that your chart populated with that data.


5. Double-check your data

At this point, it’s wise to take a quick look at your chart and make sure that nothing looks off. Mistakes can happen. So, it’s worth it to take the time to ensure that your chart is pulling in your data correctly.

Does something look off?

Do some troubleshooting to figure out where you went wrong.

6. Polish your chart

Here’s the fun part—when you get to put the finishing touches on your chart.

From changing the colors to match your brand to adding labels, titles, units, or any other information that is required, you can polish up your chart by double-clicking on the chart area and then using the options in the toolbar (there are buttons up there for everything from “Add Chart Element” to “Change Colors) to make your changes.

7. Repeat the process for other data

A true Excel dashboard includes several different charts and gauges to display data. So, to complete our dashboard in this example scenario, we’ll go back and repeat all of those steps for our other budget line items—such as phone, vehicle, gas, etc.

One important thing to note: You don’t want to delete any data in your “Chart Data” tab—since the data there, is what’s feeding your charts.

So, when going through the process of making your other charts, make sure to paste the new data sets below each other, rather than deleting and replacing them within that tab:

Excel_dashboards_process_dataAfter we’ve done that? We’ll end up with a tab that shows how much we spend on each item each month.

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Author: refuge_2020

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