How many dashboards have you created this month? Were they mobile-friendly? Should they be? I ask myself these questions very often... and I must confess that most of the dashboards I build are not mobile friendly. Why? Because they don't need to be.
When I build a data visualization, I always start by defining its purpose, and the majority of cases can be classified as one of the options below:
- Monitoring performance - used when the goal is to quickly discover a change in the data, e.g. monitoring server uptime or a company daily revenue. [Those visualizations must be mobile friendly.]
- Informing the world - used when the goal is to inform people about interesting trends and patterns in the world around them, examples can be found in almost every newspaper through data journalism stories. [Those visualizations should be mobile friendly.]
- Data exploration - used when the goal is to uncover insights from the data, e.g. analyzing the behavior of website visitors or looking for the most successful features in a product. [Those visualizations don't need to be mobile friendly.]
In this article, I will show a mobile dashboard example and provide the steps to build your own fit tracking dashboard. Mobile dashboards' goals are usually to track daily metrics to monitor performance - those visualizations that people might need to access in their way to work on their phones.
Tracking Google Fit data with Data Studio
I have used Google Fit to track my daily activity for a while, and I love the app. One of the great things about it is that it tracks walking and cycling automatically and very accurately. Besides those activities, I log my swimming sessions manually and now I'm back to a sport I truly enjoy: Ping Pong!
I like tracking my fit activities as it helps me keep my health under control, making sure I'm not letting my day-to-day life take over. So at least once a day I check Google Fit to answer two main questions:
- How yesterday compares to the last few weeks?
- How am I doing today?
And the best device for me to answer these questions is always my phone, which is where I open the app to log activities and check my performance. And while the official app is great to answer question # 2, there is something missing for me to answer question # 1. So I was really happy to find out a few months ago that we actually have a data connector on Data Studio that brings Google Fit data directly into the tool.
Below are two screenshots showing how I answer question 1 on the left and question 2 on the right. The first is a custom dashboard on Data Studio (read further to build your own) and the second is from the Journal screen in the app.
Building a dashboard with the Google Fit data connector
In order to build your own Google Fit dashboard, log in to Data Studio and click on Connect Data (left sidebar) - then search for Google Fit and click on Create Data Source.
Once you connect you'll get to the page below. Rename your data source at the top, choose the metrics you want from the drop down and connect! The type of data I used is Activity, since I'm interested in understanding the amount of minutes I have spent for each of my different activities.
You will get to a page where you can review all metrics and dimensions available. Now that your have all the data in Data Studio you can click on this template and create your own Fit report.
Please note that once you create your own dashboard you'll need to change the data source in the chart to show your own data, here is a short guide explaining how to do it.
Tip: there is a fundamental configuration you will always need to set in order to create a good mobile experience: Display mode = Fit to width (found under Layout and Theme on right sidebar when opening a report) - this will adjust the dashboard width to the screen size. Also remember that since the dashboard will adjust based on the viewer screen, you want to fill the space available to you.
That was easy, wasn't it? Creating mobile dashboards shouldn't be complicated, maybe even less so than building a desktop equivalent. The reason is that the purpose of data visualizations you build for mobile screens is much simpler, you have to focus on clean and simple charts.