Design Like a Pro: Custom Dashboards

Tips for Modern Dashboard Design

54 min video  /  49 minute read

About this Webinar

Dashboards can be very useful resources at many levels of an organization. While dashboards are often used by management, they are also highly valuable at the operational level, where they can provide operators with a real-time look at how well their processes are running.

Wherever dashboards are used, they are most effective when tailored to the user's specific role. With the right know-how, you can create dashboards that let users select which information they want to see, which will ensure that dashboards are well-utilized and beneficial to the organization as a whole.

In this webinar, an HMI/SCADA project-development expert from Inductive Automation discuss and demonstrate several practical tips for effective dashboard design.

What you will learn:

  • The most important elements for operational dashboards
  • How to build dashboards for different roles
  • Which key performance indicators (KPIs) to track on a dashboard
  • How to build dynamic dashboards
  • Time-saving development tips
  • And more

Webinar Transcript

Don: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our webinar, Design Like a Pro: Custom Dashboards. Thanks, everyone, for being here. We have a lot of great information for you, so we'll go ahead and get right into it. Just to introduce myself, I'm Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer with Inductive Automation. I'll just serve as the moderator for today's webinar. We have another speaker here today, whom I will introduce in just a few minutes. Just some perspective on our Design Like a Pro series, I'm sure many of you are familiar with, but we have a lot of new folks. I'm really pleased that we're gathering more and more interest in Design Like a Pro where we're actually responding to feedback from you, members of the Ignition Community, and just people broadly interested in some of the design concepts. But we actually have the highest number we've ever had registered, so we really appreciate your interest in this topic.

Don: The Design Like a Pro content series is just... What it's all about is just giving you fundamental ideas, tips, and practices that can help you build the best HMI/SCADA projects that you can. So these white papers here are all available at The first three parts of this series were about laying the foundation for a successful HMI/SCADA project, developing with speed and precision, and launching projects. Since then, the series discovered SCADA alarming, HMI optimization templates, combining HMIs with sequel databases, reporting and graphic design tips for HMIs. So today's topic is all about designing effective dashboards.

Don: A quick overview of today's webinar, I'll give a quick introduction to Inductive Automation and our software, Ignition. I'll introduce the presenter, who will discuss and demonstrate tips for designing dashboards like a pro. He'll talk about the basics of dashboards, the best practices for effective dashboards, the things you should avoid on your dashboards, and how to build dynamic dashboards; and you'll get all your questions answered. Some company background, Inductive Automation was founded in 2003. We've been in the industry for 13 years now, and since day one, we've been an independent company, we have no outside investors, we're profitable and stable, and we're very pleased, frankly, at the response, we've had from enterprises around the world that have chosen Ignition for their HMI/SCADA, MES, and IIoT needs.

Don: So far, it's been installed in over 90 countries. We have more than 1,400 Integrators on our program, and if you'd like more information, just go to You can go to the "About Us'' section there and get whatever information you want on the company, its leadership, its structure, and anything you might wanna know about Inductive Automation. Mission's used, as I mentioned, by a lot of companies and in countries. It's trusted by thousands, actually, of companies, including 41 of the Fortune 100 companies, and about a quarter, about 125 of Fortune 500. It's been used, frankly, in virtually every industry, including oil and gas, water, wastewater, food and beverage, government, transportation, automotive, packaging, just many others.

Don: The list just goes on. One of the reasons... Well, there's a number of reasons, I'll just mention a couple here, but our software Ignition is the first database-centric, cross-platform, web-deployed industrial application platform for HMI/SCADA, MES, IIoT. It's often used for SCADA, but we all often refer to it also as the new SCADA 'cause it's really unique from traditional SCADA solutions, as it does a whole lot more. It's much better to describe it as an industrial application platform 'cause it empowers you, gives you the tools you need to build the solutions you want. It has web-based deployment, unlimited licensing, which is critical 'cause it lets you use as many tags or clients and connections as you want to, and that really opens up the ability for you as a user to innovate and create the projects you need. It also has unlimited projects with the server license, so you can do as many projects as you want once you install the software on the server.

Don: Ignition offers strong security and stability features, it's easily expandable because of its modular architecture, and you just get the modules you need to develop the system that you need for your customers use, rapid development and deployment, downloads in three minutes, deploys instantaneously to any number of clients you may have on your network and real-time control and monitoring. So those are just... They're just a couple of bullet points about Ignition that make it unique and make it so differentiated in the market right now. I just wanna lastly mention that last year, released the results of its HMI software experience survey.

Don: The survey basically asked users to rate vendors from poor to superior based on their experience. Inductive Automation, you'll see in the orange bars here on this graph, it was by far, not even close, it was by far the top choice in four important categories: Technology adoption, customer service, ease of use, and software reliability. We're very pleased to have you as users responding to this survey saying that your experience with Inductive Automation places us way above as far as doing what you need to have done by the software you use. And it really reflects our mission, which is to bring SCADA software actually into the 21st century, and put the user and user experience first. So you can download the survey results and the webinar slides from the handouts page of your go-to webinar control panel if you have an interest in that. So that's a little introduction to us and our software. Let's get into today's topic. I'll introduce our presenter. Many of you know him already.

Don: It's Travis Cox. He's co-director of Sales Engineering and Inductive Automation. Travis started with the company in 2003. He led the training and support departments before going on to his current role in Sales Engineering. He's overseen a vast number of successful HMI and SCADA project launches for a variety of industries. Frankly, Travis' stellar work as an Ignition trainer and sales engineer has helped produce hundreds of very vocal ignition advocates who continue to drive their company's growth. And you've definitely heard him. If you've seen any of the previous Design Like a Pro Series webinars, he's a frequent guest. With that, I wanna welcome Travis and turn it over to you, Travis.

Travis: Thank you very much, Don. So let's start today by covering a few basics about dashboards. Before anyone can design an effective dashboard, they need to understand what the basic definition and purpose of a dashboard is. So what exactly is a dashboard? It's basically a user interface that displays an overview of business data in a format that is really easy for the user to read, and that is really key; it's really easy for the user to read. People like dashboard interfaces because they can see the information that's relevant to their job at a glance. It gives a high-level overview of the most important or urgent data, and it often looks like a car's dashboard, although they don't have to. But the car is really a kind of analogy, if you glance at it and instantly see the status of your speed, performance, and maintenance.

Travis: So anyone who's driven a car understands that concept and really wants to bring that same concept into our HMIS data applications. So let's look at a couple of examples of some dashboards. And we're gonna go into a demonstration a little bit later where we're gonna see some of these in action and how they were configured. But here's an example that we have in our online demo project, and the idea is that we can show some various KPIs or process values, and we can also typically bring in history data. So here you can see some smart line charts. And we'll talk about what kind of data we wanna put on these dashboards here a little bit later, but you wanna make them easy to understand, you wanna make them present a lot of useful information. Here's another example of a dashboard that goes more into the MES route looks at OEE and downtime, so we can easily see where our OEE is, what our production rates are, what our downtime by machine is, what are top downtime reasons and what our runtime has been.

Travis: So, as you can see, there's not a lot of physical text or labels. We've got a lot of summary data on this particular dashboard. Here's another example, this is going into SPC, where we can actually see an SPC chart, some checkwares as well to see if the quality and if the samples here are... If there's any samples that are overdue. So we can get a glance at what's happening here for our two lines for the SPC. Here's another example of the dashboard that we pulled. We're gonna show a live demonstration of this, but the idea, very clearly with the use of color here, it can illustrate some very important values.

Travis: And then it's interactive, which we'll look at a little later. We can click on those boxes and we can see the graph down below change or potentially to do something else. And lastly, this is another dashboard example where we're looking at energy here in particular but getting very summarized data that we can quickly understand. So as you can see from those dashboards, they really help you make better, more informed decisions quickly 'cause they give all the information that's right there. They can vary in look, but they have the same purpose. It's to present the data that will help the user make well-informed decisions in a timely manner. Whenever you're designing an interface, the point isn't to show a lot of data for its own sake. Instead, you're trying to create something that helps the user do his job, or his or her job better.

Travis: I'm gonna tell you the best practices here and things to avoid for dashboards, and they all grew out of that purpose. So I told you the what and the why of dashboards, but who are they for? Who uses dashboards in an organization? Typically, when you say dashboard, most people are gonna think of the executive level. However, dashboards can and should be used at every level of the organization. Don't just limit them to certain levels. Anybody should be able to use them to get data for their job; from operators on the plant floor all the way up to the executive level. They can be very valuable tools for operators to look at how their process is performing in real-time, and they can help the operator to gauge how they're doing at the moment. They can compare their actual performance versus their goals. So where should you put dashboards? Obviously, on the user's PC, but you can also put them on mobile devices. You can also put dashboards on TV displays on the plant floor.

Travis: Many companies place TV displays on or above the production line. TV displays can also be set up in meeting rooms and break rooms. By displaying dashboards in various places where users will see them, you're helping them remember their goals, which will help them reach their goals more consistently. I can't tell you how time and time again, I see very effective dashboards being put up on TV displays above the line that encourages operators to compete and to do better overall, making the objectives for the company and increasing the efficiency for the company.

Travis: So before I go on, I wanna mention a couple of valuable concepts, and the first here is KPIs. KPIs are a type of metric which the dashboard uses to help measure performance. KPI is an acronym for key performance indicators, as a lot of you probably already know, and there are metrics that are tied to goals. They're a way to measure how your performance compares to the key objectives of the business. Periodically, they can be tracked in real-time. It could be daily, weekly, monthly, however, the company wants to do it. The KPIs will vary according to the level of department, so high-level KPIs usually focus on the overall performance of the enterprise. So, for example, executive dashboards are used for monitoring financial information with such KPIs as profit margins, revenue, debt, equity, debt-to-equity, assets, etcetera. As you go further down into an organization, the KPIs are usually focused on processes within specific departments.

Travis: So, for example, in sales, a dashboard could have a KPI like how many calls each salesperson makes per week. Marketing dashboards could show conversion rates for the month. The call center might have a KPI for the average speed of answer. But in the operations world, dashboards can display real-time data that monitors the businesses' core processes which usually take place on the plant floor. And manufacturing level KPIs include things like OEE, downtime, unit counts, production rates, rejection rates, as well as other values that we could find in tags. So there are a lot of different KPIs that we can be looking at different levels, but it's important to find the right KPIs that are gonna help motivate and help attain how there's a goal for looking at those. So now that we've covered the basics, let's talk about some best practices for making a dashboard that lives up to its purpose. So to fulfill their purpose, dashboards need to make important info easy to find. The viewer's eye shouldn't need to scan around much. The important info should be placed where it's easily seen. Reading a dashboard should be quick and easy. Developers should avoid clutter and information overload. The whole idea is simplicity.

Travis: Again, the dashboard should provide a high-level overview. I recommend that you watch our previous webinar, Design Like A Pro Graphic Design Tips For Better HMIs, for a deeper discussion on visual design principles. And that will go into the use of color and where to place various components on the screen so we really can make it the most effective dashboard possible. But part of the challenge for a developer is to take large sets of data and make it presentable on-screen. So instead of using lots of texts and numbers, which require more time and mental effort to comprehend, you should visualize them, the info, as much as you can. The moving analog indicator is one type of a display you can use to do that. As you see over here on the right-hand side, there's two examples of this indicator.

Travis: And this allows me to quickly see that my value is inside of the normal limits, and so I can easily see if we're in or out without having to do... Without having to understand or know what those actual limits are. I don't have to actually think about it. So dashboards should be very visual. Typically, we're using things like meters, we're using bar charts and pie charts, we're using things that are very easy to see. And usually, the use of color there will dictate the ranges and if things are doing well. So they really should be intuitive. They should be easy to understand with little or no training. So there are two important reasons to be really selective about KPIs. The space on your dashboard is limited. Therefore, you need to select the KPIs that are essential to your use, to the user, and to their job. Not all KPIs are equally important to the job at hand. You probably need to have management input about what the objectives and strategies are and about who the information should be shared with. Ultimately, you should only include metrics or KPIs if you can convincingly explain how it connects to the organization's objectives.

Travis: A good method for evaluating KPIs is the SMART criteria. It's a management concept that's been around for several decades, and it can be applied to KPIs. Ask, "Is your objective specific? Can you measure progress towards that goal? Is the goal realistically attainable? How relevant is the goal to your organization," and, "What is the time frame for achieving this goal?" If a KPI meets all of the SMART criteria, it's likely to be effective. If it does not, you should re-evaluate it. The data behind the dashboard should be current. If the data is not current, the dashboard's not much good. The KPIs and other metrics on it should match up with the organization's current business challenges and priorities. In an operational dashboard especially, the data should be real-time or close to real-time. And as a best practice, somewhere on the screen, you should display the date and time when the data was last updated so that when a user looks at the screen, they're seeing what the information is, but they know exactly when it was last updated. Because, especially if your KPIs are measured daily or weekly, you wanna know what that time frame is really for and when it was last updated.

Travis: It's part of giving the user everything they need to make better decisions on that screen. Another best practice is to make the dashboard interactive. Most of the dashboards that I've seen that are really effective have a bit of interaction. This is typically when you're gonna view it on a mobile device or on a PC. Not for TV displays, but for these kinds of... What the operator is using on a plant floor, being able to drill down and to find more information is very effective. So it should allow them to customize it to some degree and do some basic analysis. The dashboards, again, should be intuitive enough that these things can be done without needing training. If any. So more complex details and functions reside further down in the hierarchy. And try to put as much helpful information, like tooltips and question mark icons, to guide users in the right direction when you make it interactive. Don't just assume that they know how to click on a component.

Travis: Tell them, "Click on this to get more detail." Let them know what's going on. And tooltips is typically a great way to do that. Lastly, it's a best practice to always make it easy to access and to use the dashboard. If the user can't get to it easily, they won't look at it, and they won't benefit from it. Ideally, it should be distributed through a web-based system, and we should be able to see it everywhere in the organization. I should be able to see it on touchscreen computers in the plant floor, on PCs in people's offices, on mobile devices, and on TV displays. Every device today can have information, can display information. People walk around with tablets everywhere. We have the tools at hand and we just need to be able to provide the data to those users.

Travis: So the dashboard also typically is the first screen the user will see when they actually log into the application. So that way, they're hit right on the head with the dashboard. From there, they typically can navigate around and can drill into the information, but it's great to see the main KPIs right away. So the flip side to our best practices are the things we should avoid when designing dashboards. As I said, it's better to use visual elements to convey information instead of using lots of text or numbers. So, please, stay away from lots of text or numbers. Don't use visual elements like tables that are heavy on text or numbers, and don't use the scroll bars. The user shouldn't need to scroll because everything should be there at a glance.

Travis: And don't use unusual types of charts or graphs that the average user would recognize. Everybody needs to be able to understand right away what those are because the more you use unusual types of components or display elements, the more you've got to explain what those are actually doing. And while it's good to use colors and shapes, you shouldn't use an excessive amount. And overly bright colors are distracting, and you wanna keep all the visual elements very simple. Say no to things like 3D graphics, animation, and elaborate widgets. I know that 3D graphics make things look really nice, I know the animation is cool. It may be cool, but it doesn't convey the information quickly to a user, and that's the point of dashboards.

Travis: Avoid complexity and clutter. Don't make it look too detailed, too busy, or too flashy. Keep your dashboards simple and easy to look at. Don't clutter it with unnecessary graphics or widgets, be very selective. Always think about whether the graphic or widget is actually informing the user in a fast and easy way or if it's getting in the way of the objective. The best way is to go through several iterations of the dashboard, where you do several short cycles of prototyping, testing, and adjusting. And also, be sure to show it to people who are outside of the business unit because it should be intuitive enough for anyone within the organization who has an outside perspective to understand what that dashboard is supposed to do. And that is one of the big pitfalls I see a lot of companies go into. The designer who's building the dashboard is, no offense, a designer, is a developer. Developers don't have the best sense for user interfaces or for... And they understand the whole process.

Travis: They know it. So they assume that people that they're going to show it to understand that process as well. Never assume that. Always have somebody who's outside to look at it to provide their perspective. And take that feedback. And once you have that feedback, get feedback from different operators so that you can make it better and easier for them to use. You need to use a software platform that allows you to be agile, that allows changes to happen on the fly, and not be overly complicated to deploy those out to the different displays that I was talking about earlier. On a similar note, don't use metrics that are too obscure, that most people wouldn't be familiar with. While the metric should be relevant to the user, they should also be comprehensible to a broader audience within the organization. It'll be pretty safe if you stick to the KPIs that I mentioned earlier, but be careful about straying too far from those.

Travis: Another thing to avoid is waiting for complex technology and big business intelligence deployment projects. Business intelligence or BI tools can provide a lot of nice sophisticated capabilities. However, implementations can take much longer than originally anticipated. If you wait for a traditional BI project to materialize, you could have waited months or even years for that delay. Instead, focus on dashboards, on the dashboard tools and strategies that you can start using now. So, again, this goes back to using a software platform that allows you to build these things quickly to get the information into people's hands to start getting benefit from that data. A lot of big companies are going down the path of business intelligence, and that's really good, but it's typically going to happen from the top level down. And we really stress being able to get dashboards at the operational level, so get from the operations up. This is sort of, if you will, the riff of OT and IT, but we need to be able to provide that data that people can work with. You might have noticed that a lot of best practices involve upkeep here. So you shouldn't underestimate the time and resources that it will take to create and maintain a dashboard. Just because it's a simple-looking interface doesn't mean that making and maintaining it will be a quick and easy project. As with any valuable tool, it takes a considerable amount of ongoing resources to design, launch, and maintain them.

Travis: Now, when you look at using a software platform to provide this dashboard, it's incredibly important that you use a platform that makes developing and deploying those dashboards extremely quick and simple. Because if that is a complicated process, then you're gonna double the complicated process of being able just to figure out what you want to put on the screen along with the deployment of the application. So you really need to choose something that allows you to be agile. I think that's a really keyword here when looking at dashboards. So lastly here, don't forget that metrics on the dashboard should match up with the goals of the company. I've said that many times. Often these dashboards display the activities of a single department, and that's okay, but the dashboard should also connect that department's efforts to the overall goals and objectives of the organization. Then they feel that they're part of the overall business objective, and by being part of it, they're going to do better. We see that time and time again. So we've talked a lot about just the simple basics of dashboards and best practices and what to avoid, and where we should show dashboards.

Travis: All that it's gonna sound very obvious to a lot of you that are on here today, but I'm telling you most companies don't go through these best practices. They just will slap some things together, and it may not really align or give the proper information that we're looking for. And sometimes getting the proper information, it can be a little bit difficult, and so that's where we gotta figure out how we can use the tools at hand to get that data on the screen. So let's show a couple of actual dashboards live. I'm gonna be demonstrating Ignition because that is what we have here. And so you can see some of the features that Ignition gives you. As far as the development and deployment, it's a perfect candidate for that. So here's a couple of examples of dashboard, and here's one with meters and sparkline charts, so it's pretty simple. And as far as developing these kinds of dashboards, typically you're looking at building templates, so you're gonna link to values that are live values from the devices, or you're going to link to history values. We're gonna get the information from someplace. So this is the actual Design of that particular dashboard, and these templates are available for people who are looking at using Ignition for this kind of purpose.

Travis: Another example here is the OEE downtime one that I showed you earlier. But what I really wanna show is the interactive part of this particular dashboard. So you look at this, it shows a lot of information, but first of all, I can select the line that I wanna deal with. So I'm looking at line one, but they can now select between line one, line two, and line three. So they can easily jump around to particular areas and to get that summary data.

Travis: We could, of course, display a dashboard with all the lines on them, but you don't want to clutter a screen too much. You wanna be selective as to what's on there. Also, from here, I can see, for example, down at the bottom left, here's my downtime by machine. I should be able to drill into more information. So I can see that filler here has got quite a bit of downtime, and I can click on that to look into what are the possible reasons for that? Drill into the information to get more. Same kind of thing over here. I'm getting a summarization of our runtime, and I should be able to double click and drill into what it actually looks like. When were we running? When were we down? What were the reasons? And with this, I can let them really get into more detailed information. So we use dashboards to get the summary to then drill down to further information. Another example that would be this one here.

Travis: But this one, rather than opening a pop-up window or switching screen, I have some various process values up here, or KPIs, whatever you wanna show, and the idea is that I can click on these, and it would change what's down here at the bottom. So, right now, I'm just gonna change what pen I'm viewing in the chart, but imagine it can actually show various other different KPIs below that are related to what we select. So I select ammonia here, I get that graph like PH, I get its graph and I can go back and forth between these easily being able to work with it. And I didn't put a tooltip here. Like I said earlier, it's very nice to be able to put the tooltip or a little note up here saying, "Click on the boxes above to see more detail." That always helps the user understand what to do. So those are a couple of examples of some dashboards. Designing these, it's about using the right components to do the job.

Travis: Things like pie charts and bar charts. There's radar charts and sparkline charts and various charts, various visual elements like meters, being able to display numbers very clearly like we have here with the use of color that can really point out and hint to these important items. So the one thing I wanna point out is it could be challenging to get data from multiple different data sources. So here, I wanna show an example. This is a little dashboard, a simple one where I show current energy usage, and I can see the energy savings from the last period. So maybe it's from the same month last year, whatever period we're trying to deal with, so we can see what energy savings are over time. Well, to understand what energy savings are, first, we have to get the history data.

Travis: Secondly, I have to know what it costs per kilowatt-hour, and this information is gonna exist in different sources. So the historian might have the data for the information of the actual current energy usage. But another outside tool, like a web service, they have information for the actual dollar amount per kilowatt-hour. And so it's important that we can then end here. You see down here at the bottom left, I have some properties. This is, I know, Ignition, but the idea is I can actually go get the information for the current... Through the historian and through the same period last year in the historian, and then I can go off and do a call to web service to get the rate per kilowatt-hour. And at the end of the day, what I'm gonna be doing when I'm showing the value is a calculation here. Where I get the last period minus the new one, I multiply that by the rate per kilowatt-hour, and I can get my savings.

Travis: And so utilizing other databases, outside databases, being interoperable with other systems to pull in all the data into one place to provide more data to a user, that is the real objective of a dashboard. And you need to have a platform that allows you to pull data from multiple sources. That is really important. Otherwise, you're gonna be basically building your own tools from scratch. And we see a lot of companies doing this for TV displays. They're just building their own websites, their or type applications. And then that's what they have to maintain going forward that is separate from the system that they're already using. So the idea is to kind of combine them into one. It gives you the best ultimate flexibility. And lastly here I wanna point out that if you're looking at mobile dashboards, you wanna build those as well, make them separate projects because the aspect ratio is different.

Travis: Show information, as you can see here is a small dashboard for a mobile phone, show the information that they can walk around with. It doesn't need to be very interactive, but get right to that information. Last thing I wanna point out here is you want to be able to, for TV displays, be able to launch something in full screen. So I can see the dashboard in a break room or whatever, and so what I'm doing here is launching Ignition in a full-screen mode that we typically would see on a TV and you can see that it's gonna show the same dashboards I was looking earlier, except for it's gonna rotate between these screens every five seconds. So I can not just show one set of dashboards, I can show multiple sets of dashboards very easily here on the screen.

Travis: Okay, so let's get into the second section of the webinar. This is my favorite section, I'm really excited about this, and I hope all of you are really excited about this particular session as well. It's a dynamic dashboard. The dashboards I showed you before, we looked at the major dos and don'ts of all of those, but the most effective really is dynamic dashboards. Because they're dynamic and they could be connected to databases that can be there for each user. So we're gonna shift gears a bit. Up to this point, we talked about dashboards that are aligned with the organization and would make sense to anyone who looked at it. The dynamic dashboards are different because they are tied to a specific user. They're all about letting the user select what they wanna see and how they wanna see it. They're not necessarily aligned with the organization, so they don't need to track only KPIs that are meaningful across the organization. They aren't pre-configured either. They're connected to your database, so components may or may not appear based on what the user selects. And components can be dynamically added from the run time. So if you add something new to your database, it can automatically show up on the dashboard. These are perfect for operators because the operator can dictate what they want to view.

Travis: So one way to make these dashboards is to design a collection of widgets. And then let the users choose which widgets they want to see on the screen. And to do that and to configure what the widget is going to do this gives the user a lot of room to customize what they're seeing and helps ensure that dashboards are staying relevant to them. So Ignition has a couple of tools in particular that make dynamic dashboards very easy to use. And I'm gonna talk about Ignition. In general, this concept can be applied to potentially other applications as well. So, there's a tool called the Template Repeater that allows you to repeat a single template any number of times. So it looks like an empty container, but when you drop it out on a window, you select the template you want, it can fill up the container with repetitions of that template, and this lets you create a screen that represents many similar pieces of equipment. So think of an example where you're an operator and you are assigned... Say you're in oil and gas, you're assigned various wells out there.

Travis: And so, when you log into the application, your dashboard is a screen of all the wells that you're assigned to, and from there, you can drill into that. And it could also be, repeating various KPIs that you'd be interested in, but it's using the same template over and over again. So there's a good use case for it. But the one that's really useful is this template canvas. It's a component that allows you to basically instantiate any templates you want anywhere you want within the canvas. And the templates that appear can change. The number can be determined by configuration from a database or by the user interacting with it on the screen. So I want to really show a demo of this one. I want to spend just a few more minutes on how this can be accomplished.

Travis: And so, first of all, let's go to the actual runtime here, so my example is these widgets, this dashboard widget idea. So I'm an operator, I'm logged in as admin, here's the dashboard that I have pre-configured... That I've configured for myself already. So I'm seeing eight boxes here, and I could potentially show more or less. If I want to show only four, if I want to show 16, I can show more on the screen, and I can then go and configure what I want each of these widgets to actually be. So let me go eight here 'cause it's my screen resolution, and you can see that I can select between the widgets that I've developed here. So I got a drop-down list. I can look at the temperature gauge, history. I can look at news, stock quotes, and weather. Imagine, you can have many KPIs and things you want to build as widgets that we can then show.

Travis: And we would select what we want to use. So if I want a temperature gauge here to show this... I want this to be kilowatt per hour instead of the temperature, but I want to be in the gauge, I can save that, and now this is kilowatts per hour, and I get that particular tag. So we can really configure what each of these are actually doing. When I press save, what it's actually doing is saving that into a database. So what's important here, let's take a look at first, the database here. I'm using a MySQL database, but it's a place where we can store the widgets. So here I have widget users, so I'm logged in as admin and I set my grid size to 16. That's what I want the grid size to be. So if I actually go back here and save this at eight, you'll see that if I refresh this, it's now eight, so that saving is updating the database.

Travis: And then, for each of the locations on the configuration one here, I can specify what widgets I want to show, and I can show the configuration for that particular widget. So all that we're doing here is we have a canvas that is linked to a SQL query here that brings back that configuration, and it's just basically telling the canvas which templates to show and where to show them. And I have just a collection of widgets down here if I go into my widget dashboard. So I've got a temperature gauge here that has a configuration for what to show. I've got a tag history, a stock quote, a news quote, all of these things that once I have saved the configuration of the database, we are simply going to query that and stick them in each of those quadrants, we're gonna have a particular widget. And this entire example is available for anybody who wants to do this, but this really allows your operators to have full capabilities.

Travis: You can imagine I can build easily 20 more widgets like this, and it's simple to configure. I don't have to do anything. Once I can rate the screen, I can create more widgets, and they would just start showing up with the configuration that I can start working with, so it is really quite handy. And there's also a widget here that allows for the actual configuration. So the widget configure is what you saw where I can select from the different ones. So this is a dashboard that I find to be very effective. The more tools you give to the operator to let them change what they want to see, to be interactive, to do their analysis, to get to the information they want, the more effective, overall, your system's gonna be. So there are dashboards that are gonna be aligned with the business. There are dashboards that you want the user to see. The same principles apply to figure out the right data you want to show.

Travis: So, in summary here, always remember the purpose of the dashboard, to give users data that helps them make better-informed decisions quickly. Everything on your dashboard should serve that purpose. Dashboards are useful to operators as well as managers to include KPIs but only select the most relevant ones. Be objective-focused, be visual, be relevant. Keep the data current and make the dashboard accessible. Avoid complexity, avoid clutter, bad design, unrealistic expectations about the time and work. Don't obscure metrics, and don't let dashboards be isolated from the organizational objectives. And these dynamic dashboards can really be effective forms of dashboards, and they're really easy to make in Ignition in particular. So as a final note, if you wanna do some further study on the subject, we've got some Design Like a Pro webinars, white papers, and tip sheets about HMI optimization and design tips that also apply here. All of the contents are available on our resources page on the website, and up on the screen here we've listed a couple of outside useful resources that we reference in the webinar here, and we recommend that if you'd like to read up on them, on these subjects, you can go look at those.

Don: If you enjoyed today's webinar, there's plenty more free Ignition training available. Just visit When we started Inductive University a couple of years ago, the goal was, because we go to market through our integrators, we wanted to empower knowledge transfer across the world globally. There's over 600 videos. They're short, one to three-minute videos on everything you can earn credentials, for HMI/SCADA school, for the MES school. It really empowers you as users to get all that knowledge for free. It's only gonna be determined by your willingness to put in a little bit of time to get it. You can self-pace, take challenges, earn the credential. And that credential is the first step leading toward certification for those of you who are integrators in the ignition software. So it's a totally free online training service. Just go there and take a look at it, sign up, and start learning about Ignition at your own pace right now. So I wanted to mention those two things, 'cause we really try and do as much as we can to share knowledge with you. This Design Like a Pro Series is part of that. So as we go forward, we're going to do Q and A. Also put on the screen account executives and the director of sales, so if you wanna follow up with your account executive, if you have questions you wanted your own personal demo of Ignition, by all means, there's the contact information. So to the questions.

Travis: So, first of all, a lot of you are getting me on my simulation values in my dashboards. Of course, they're not real, so, yes, we have the negative PHs and stuff. You'd have real values in the real world, so, yeah, just using simulation values. So thanks for getting me.

Don: Yeah. Well, this is a very engineering-oriented group, Travis, they're not gonna miss a negative PH number coming up there, huh?

Don: Okay, good. So I'll just read you the question, you take off on it, okay? Where can we find these dashboard templates? Is it a download on the designer already? We're new and about to begin integrations, so lots to learn. John Sullivan wants to know.

Travis: Alright, so some of these actual widgets are available on a system we have called Cloud Templates. So in Ignition, you can go into, for example, the gauge. These are in there. I know that I said avoid overly excessive 3D graphics. Yes, this looks a little bit 3D, I know somebody had caught me on that one as well, but they're not... They're three simple gauges. It's not like we're looking at crazy... The screen should not be overly cluttered. So some of the templates are in the Cloud Templates repository here, and most of the actual stuff that I demonstrated today is available if you go to It's on the downloads here. Under the downloads, there's demo project files, and there's a back-up of these types of screens, and we could also make one that's specific to just what I showed available for people to play around with as well. So that is available.

Don: Cool, alright, so are all of these features available on the basic gateway or what additional modules are needed for these dashboards, particularly the OEE dashboard example?

Travis: Well, OEE is OE, so it's not too complicated to calculate. There can be some complications when you... There are some details that can happen when you implement these kinds of systems. You can do basic OE calculations on the platform, but the OE downtime module in particular that we have makes it certainly that much easier to provide these kinds of dashboards and drill-down capabilities. The drill down is really what's important. And it is built into the OE downtime module, and I would recommend it over building it yourself for sure.

Don: Okay, cool, so do you recommend adding a dashboard to existing HMIs as a frontend controls down to the original screens? That's Ken's question.

Travis: That's a very good question. So it's gotta be about what the main objective of that operator is going to be. A lot of times, you can make effective dashboards that will let them see if there are any issues, and then from there, they can drill into the other screens that you have developed. So in a lot of cases, there are... There's a good case to make dashboards be the first screens that are there, but sometimes you want the PNID to be that particular screen. So it really depends on what you're trying to do exactly.

Don: Thanks, Travis. Okay, is there a mode where I can introduce the end-user to the widget possibilities but keep from them the designer configuration screen, which might be a little bit too complicated for them? So that's Joe's question.

Travis: I was showing the designer here in Ignition just to kind of let you guys see what it's about there. The last example that I did is all in the runtime, so I've actually... I made them a little, if you will, designer configuration in the runtime that they can select. So they don't have to go into designer, so we can actually make this as intuitive and as simple as possible here in the runtime. That gives them the ability to modify things, to change things, but getting that flexibility. I've also seen it where people just have a treeview style, and they just drag items on to the canvas, it just displays different places. So you can make it even simpler than the way I've done it here. There are lots of examples out there that people have done with the product.

Don: Yeah, so it doesn't have to be too complicated. It can definitely be simple. Another one though. Another question here is: Can the dashboard display alarms as well?

Travis: Good question. Of course they can. Alarms, the important thing there is to summarize data you don't wanna look at. There could be lots of events happening. So what I'm gonna show you here is, again, the online demo project. There is another dashboard that I didn't show. It was the alum analysis screen. It's got a little more data than probably what you'd want. There's a lot of text and stuff up here. It's all summarized data, so if you got rid of this particular summary and just looked at these down here, this is a pretty good screen to look at as far as alums by frequency or by duration, so getting out some of the text there, looking at just the graphics, will make it easier for the operator to see that kind of data as well. Absolutely.

Don: Cool, so as we're scrolling through it, you guys had a lot of questions. This is really good. So we're trying to get to as many as we possibly can, but like I said, we'll make sure we do follow up and get to more. So this particular question is, next one: Do you have a detailed demo doing widgets making?

Travis: I didn't obviously go through a lot of demonstration of physically making all these here today, but certainly you can contact any of the account executives here, and they could set up a demonstration with one of the members of my team, sales engineering, where we can then show you and really go through the process of building these widgets so you can see how it all works. So I'd encourage you to call and to get one of those set up.

Don: Cool. So this one says: Are you working with any water sector industry associations, AWMBA, WEM? What are you doing with those industry associations? I'm gonna comment that I know, Travis, you're gonna be speaking at the Association meeting in San Diego. I think that's just California and Nevada Water District, isn't it, with one of... Henry Palchak, one of our customers from Phoenix?

Travis: Yeah, we are gonna speak at the AWMBA. So we certainly do, we're very heavily involved with water. Wastewater, it's a big industry for us. A lot of case studies and customers in that industry, and we have seen some effective dashboards in that industry that we can provide some references so you can see what that looks like for those.

Don: Yeah, that's one of our top five industries. We've got a couple of hundred customers in that area that I think would give a lot of variety for feedback in that area. Okay, next question is: Are mobile screens configured differently, or are they the same as desktop screens?

Travis: Typically, mobile projects, especially for phones, are gonna be a different project than the main one because the aspect ratio is just different, and you don't have as much real estate, so you can't cram as much on there. You wanna keep it simpler. We're working on a new mobile offering that can make it so that it can just easily transform as you change the resolution without having to configure two separate projects. Because you wanna make that part as simple as possible. But typically, right now, it's two different projects.

Don: Okay, cool. Next question: Are there any plans to add more graph and chart functions to the vision modules, statistical charts, and graphs in particular?

Travis: So we do have quite a few charts in the SPC module for statistical process control, and pareto charts and CPK or process performance, process capability, those kinds of charts are in there as well, and Ignition does have the module SDK, so we have found there are some really good graphical elements that are out there that you can get access to that you could make a module that provides a new component for Ignition very easily. A lot of customers have done that here in the past.

Don: Okay, so next questions as we scroll down here to other ones. We've got a few more minutes, so we can take a few more questions. Do you provide any hands-on training or experience in this area?

Travis: We certainly provide training. We have training classes here for Ignition in Folsom. You can look at the website for the schedule. We also have an online university that Don mentioned that doesn't have anything specific to dashboard creating, but talks about how to use the modules to do this kinds of stuff, but we can do one-on-one type things with you through sales engineering, or possibly through design services, where we can help you build some type of screens if you'd like to go down that path.

Don: Travis, you may have already answered this one, but just as an overall question, somebody just asked for any comments about, "Travis, do you have any comments about dashboards from old devices, app versus web interfaces?" Arthur has that comment. Anything you might add to that?

Travis: Yeah, so certainly, I would much prefer a web interface over an app because certainly apps have to be installed on the device and web interfaces, you could just have a link to it, so it makes it much simpler. There are some freedoms you can get with apps, it has HTML5, you can do so much with that, and with our mobile module, you can get those into a browser as well. I think it's just simpler that way.

Don: Okay, cool. So here's one, says, "Hello, guys. It is very useful having TVs on the shop floor. We are using Raspberry Pi just play Ignition dashboards. The only drawback I found is that JxBrowser is not supported on Pi and needs to use Ignition mobile in a browser. Do you plan to make JxBrowser working on Raspberry Pi?"

Travis: So the short answer is we do plan on that, and I'm glad you brought up the Raspberry Pi idea because a lot of those are being... Raspberry Pi or intel sticks or things that are being used for TV displays, and so with Ignition, the client can run through mobile or just natively on these devices, getting, again, more displays to see that data, but we do plan on that in particular.

Don: Okay, that's cool. Thanks, Travis. We've got time for maybe one or two more questions, and I'll emphasize again since you guys had a lot more than we're gonna be able to get to, we'll take a couple of more before we wrap up, and then we will make sure we follow up with the questions that didn't get answered. So with that, here's the next one: We already have Ignition in production with the factory, I'd like to create finance dashboards. Is there a way to create a financial dashboard to co-exist with our current factory dashboards, and if so, how?

Travis: Absolutely, it can definitely co-exist. Ignition, you have unlimited use of as many products as you wanna create. We can talk to databases, web services, we could talk to OPC, we can get data from so many sources, OPC, HDA, that it allows you to create a project that can tie into other systems, very commonly ERP or accounting software, and bring in that data and provide dashboards. The beauty of Ignition is the fact that we can get these clients in front of every user, potentially. We can get that data out there very easily, we can deploy it quickly, we can make changes via Agile, and that is really what you need to make these kinds of effective systems, and we've got a lot of customers who are making Ignition effectively their enterprise dashboard for everything.

Don: For everything. I'm gonna answer these two questions 'cause we're coming towards the end, and Travis can see if he can get one or two more in, but first off, I did say that you can go to our resources section, I think, to get all the past videos of Design Like a Pro, so please, I think will take you right there, and, "Is this session being recorded, and can we download it?" I think we will have it out if it isn't by this afternoon, tomorrow morning. It will also be on the site where we archive all of our past webinars. So you can have full access to it and share it with others, whatever. So with those two questions, Travis, I'll let you have an opportunity to maybe take one final question and add anything else that you wanna say in wrapping up today's webinar. So here's the final question. This is a good question for us to answer: When is Ignition 7.9 due out? John Sullivan wants to know. Today he wants to know.

Travis: We're looking at July timeframe here for 7.9, so definitely stay tuned. It's coming very quickly here. And I wanna thank you guys all for being here at today's webinar. I know with dashboards, in particular, there's a lot of things that cover its obvious techniques, but I really would love to work with you guys to help you build your dashboards. Our team, our teams here, have had a lot of experience with this. We can certainly, like I said, get on WebExes or go to meetings so that we can help you with these and look at how we can make dashboards for your enterprise more effective.

Don: Travis, thanks for covering a ton of territory today in today's webinar. We hope it was valuable to you attendees. With that, we are concluded. Have a great day.

Posted on April 27, 2016