Some property management companies spend months building a single dashboard. And after the dashboard is published, it does not get used. I have seen it many times.

Want to avoid this outcome? Here are property management dashboard design guidelines for building dashboards that will actually get used.

1. Pick a Problem to Solve

Property management dashboards don’t get used in a vacuum. They should be built to solve a problem, or at least warn of potential problems. Examples of problems are:

  • Runaway make-ready expenses
  • Big vacancy losses
  • Low lead conversions
  • Slow collections
  • Unhappy residents and
  • Large budget variances

Don’t build dashboards because someone wants a more attractive way of looking at information that’s already easily available (“pretty pictures”).


2. Know Your Audience

Now that you’ve identified the problem you are going after, decide who will be using your property management dashboard. Who do you want to use the dashboard and act on the information it displays?
Make a list of the people and what information they lack today that the dashboard will supplement.
Not sure what they need? Don’t guess. Talk to the people that you are trying to help solve the problem.


3. Decide What Reaction You Want

The third step in the property management dashboard design guidelines focuses on the reaction you want to elicit from the user. What reaction do you want? Here are examples of reactions you could want after someone takes a quick glance at your dashboard:

  • “All is well. Stay the course”
  • “I see danger approaching”
  • “We could be doing better here”
  • “This is interesting … I want more info.”

Keep things simple. Show only enough information so that you can get the reaction within 10 seconds. Avoid cluttering the message with too many numbers on your dashboard.

If enough thought is not put into the desired reaction, you will get a mixed result like:

  • “Ho hum”
  • “So what?”
  • “Too much info!”
  • “ I’ll look at it tomorrow”


4. Anticipate the Follow Up Questions

What do you want to happen after the initial reaction? Anticipate the questions that will come up. And add the answers to these questions on subsequent pages of the dashboard.

For example, If the Initial reaction is that Vacancy Loss in Property X is trending in the wrong direction, follow-up questions could be:

  • Are our rents set to market?
  • Where do we stand on concessions?
  • Has occupancy also been trending down?
  • Have we reduced spending on lead generation?
  • Are we converting leads at a lower rate?


5. Select the Metrics

If you have been reading my articles, you know that I put a lot of emphasis on questions. Metrics are useful when they answer the questions people have. So, once you have listed the follow up questions that your audience will have, the metrics should be easy to identify.
You can get some metric ideas from our metrics handbook.


6. Sketch the Visualizations

  • Now it is time to compose the visual elements of your dashboard. You have already outlined the story. The visual elements you select should tell it effectively.
  • Show trends (time on the x-axis) to show what has been increasing or decreasing.
  • Use colors to draw attention to good or bad outcomes.
  • Use reference lines to show targets or portfolio averages or moving averages so that the actual values can be put into context.
  • Here is a link to Tableau “visual best practices” for ideas.
  • Before you start building the dashboard, have some of your intended audience give you feedback on your sketches.

7. Time Box Your Project

Dashboards evolve. There will be a version 1, then a version 2, 3 and maybe 4. Do not spend months building version 1 of your real estate dashboard. Get it out there and have people use it. If it is useful, the users will ask for more. Your version 2 will be slightly better than version 1. If the version 1 was considered useless, then learn from it and decide how to make version 2 useful.

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