Can You See Your Project's Dashboard?


In the PM (it's actually called “software methodology, but I assign a project, so students can experiment with methodologies) class I teach at TGI, I ask the students to create (and then use) a project dashboard, so they have a quantitative way to see their progress (or lack thereof). The students presented their dashboards last week.

One of the teams adapted a traffic light, with red, yellow, green, and blue (for done). The student who presented the traffic light to the class, said something like this, “We added blue, to denote done. I think it's right there.” I said, “Can't you see it?” He said, “No, I'm color blind.”

I did about 5 minutes of online “research” and realized that about 5-7% of men can't distinguish red from green. Some fewer can't distinguish between blue and green (the problem my student had).

So, if you're going to use a traffic light (which I don't like. See Sunny Skies or Storms? for an alternative to the traffic light), make sure your viewers can see it.

Labels: dashboard, project management

3 Replies to “Can You See Your Project's Dashboard?”

  1. I learned this one when I built some factory-floor diagnostic gear. They loved that we could figure out and even localize many manufacturing defects. Noisy, dirty factory floor, and they automatically ask about the full range of visual acuity – and other capabilities – that the allow on the floor.
    Would that we paid as much attention to these things when dealing with knowledge workers.
    We had sound already, which they liked. You can work with color discrimination by using a fill pattern or a shape. I like green stars for “OK” and a red “X” for bad, with hatch mark fill for the X. Fill patterns and shapes also look different on B & W printouts.
    The trick is to go multi-modal for important information that people have to get. That also goes for other kinds of modes. Some people respond better to tables of numbers, while others want to see a shape or graph, while others won’t get it unless you tell them a story – a sequence in time, in words.
    When someone complais about the burden of doing this, or even simply the time they are wasting presenting information several ways (always said: “You are wasting time . . . “, BTW) well you’ve even learned something yourself in the bargain. It’s good to know when someone is “folks not like me blind” too.

  2. (couldn’t get a trackback to work, so here’s an excerpt from my post, referencing yours)
    Many applications have some form of status indicator icons available for reports and displays. The visual analog of an LED indicator on a dashboard doesn’t quite work, however; as Rothman points out, colors can get transformed into shades of grey that are tough to differentiate. And it’s not just the color-blind; a more practical issue is the availability of reasonable quality color for the final display…I

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