Growth Design Special Edition #001

How Dashboard Designs 

Can Impact Your Perception

Story Duration: 3 min

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Coronavirus UX:

Couple weeks ago, I was having the most ordinary night...

Watching TV very uneventfully...

Until I changed channel...

Availability Heuristic

We often misjudge the magnitude of events that have happened recently.

This happens because it's easier for us to recall recent information.1

I've heard of the virus before, yet this last piece of information takes precedence on what I know.2

1Farnam Street, 3 Things Everyone Should Know About the Availability Heuristic (2019)
2NN Group, The Availability Heuristic (2018)

So I jumped on my computer...

Avatar displaying current emotion

That map is scarrrryyyy...

Let's see if I can find more info on the actual spread.

Avatar displaying current emotion

Confirmation Bias

We tend to favor and use information that confirms our previously existing beliefs. 1

Here, my thoughts are anchored with the News I just watched. So a quick look at this map confirms my fears while ignoring the facts... (which we'll get to soon!)2

1TED - Julia Galef, Why you think you're right -- even if you're wrong (2016)
2Farnam Street, Confirmation Bias And the Power of Disconfirming Evidence (2020)

Found a real-time live map...

(source: John Hopkins University)


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Holy... This is crazy.

It feels like the game Plague Inc.

It looks so bad that my brain can't process it...

So I did what I do best...

Closed my computer and went in full denial mode.

Avatar displaying current emotion

Data Representation UX

Using a symbol map to represent the proportion of infected people isn't ideal here.1

1) The relative scale trumps the perception of the spread.

2) It doesn't account for the growth of the disease. Europe is completely "infected" visually. It implies it can't get worse, when in fact, it could.

1Datawrapper, 17 responsible live visualizations about the coronavirus (2019)

Negativity Bias

We have a stronger recall of the unpleasant over the positive.1

When data has a negative connotation, you should avoid showing cumulative cases in your dashboard.2 It can amplify/alter perceptions.

1Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow (2019) 2Datawrapper, 17 responsible live visualizations about the coronavirus (2019)

The next day, I went back to take a deeper look at that map...

Wait a minute...

There are 1.4 billion people in China...

That's barely 0.005%!

...also China has 2/3 of worldwide infected people.

So why does it look like there are 3X more people that are infected worldwide on the map?

...And I just realized that half of the people are cured!

I'm even more confused...


In reality...

☝️This would be a more proportional map of the spread in China.

The map shows that all of China is infected...

but in reality only 81,000 people are?

Avatar displaying current emotion

Also... Is it just me or the color red...

feels a lot like a "death sentence"?

Consider the human side of what you create

Remember that behind every data point, there's an actual person.

Make sure people feel respected by your choice of layout and colors.

In this case, most infected people will survive. It doesn't need to be "death red."1

1Amanda Makulec, Ten Considerations Before You Create Another Chart About COVID-19 (2019)


Something like this ☝️ would definitely be more respectful.


For example... Adding "We know of" could be more appropriate!

When you start digging, two things stand out:

1) 📊 Demographics: Age and health conditions are left out

2) 🧮 Error Margins: Numbers are never 100% accurate. What's the margin here?

This would give a more accurate picture for the viewers.

Now, one of the questions I like to ask when looking at a design is:

"What is this not saying?"

Now, 2 things remain super important...


—practice social distancing...


Psych Level

Customer Journey

Watching the News sparked my curiosity to dig more about the subject.

The way the live map was displayed was too much to handle. I couldn't see past the alarming design.

Going back to the map, I quickly realized that the numbers and the visuals didn't match at all.

Finally, the "death red" trumps the overall perception.

Plus key information is missing.

Plus the dashboard completely ignored the "recovered" people.

One last thing for you! 

📊 How To Design Meaningful Dashboards

Get this free one-pager containing:

  • CHECKLIST: 6 key reminders to create a better data visualizations and dashboards.
  • INSIGHTS: All of the 5 psychological & UX insights covered here (with screenshots!)
  • BONUS: 2 dashboard design resources

Yes, I Want My Cheatsheet!

Dashboard Experience


—here are the key moments of my research journey...

If you learned something...

retweets are  welcomed!

Just click the image to do so:

Congrats & Stay Safe!

You completed Growth.Design's Case Study SPECIAL EDITION #001:
"Coronavirus UX"