Using a web dashboard

Originally uploaded by tobyberesford

The new suite of web 2.0 applications focused on personal dashboards – iGoogle, My Yahoo, Netvibes, Pageflakes,Vista Desktop and Mac Desktop are great but how do you use them best? What are they really for.

I interviewed a super user of dashboards, Az, CTO for an internet company. He has a bank of 5 monitors that he uses as a dashboard – a precursor solution to the online tools mentioned above. Based on what he does, I’ve come up with the following groupings for you to arrange your dashboard:

1. Monitoring – this is anything you are actively monitoring – these may be the Key Performance Indicators for your business, a news feed for critical keywords like your company name or product. Az keeps track of server room temperatures and watches the statistics on new domain registrants as they come in.

2. Quick Access Tools – these are the frequently used tools you need quick access to if something in your monitoring section causes it. Az is concerned primarily with domains and registrations so his tools include whois, and ways to quickly update the domain registry if requested. “Things I need to do quite often” says Az.

3. Inbox and IM – this is the catch all business communication inbox – you may have this as a separate window on your PC or as a widget on your dashboard. Its location doesn’t matter but “always on” email and its partner in communication “Instant Messaging” should be always on your desktop so people can interrupt your work to help with their work (think of the telephone that sits idly on your desk…)

4. Toolbox – these are the less frequently used tools such as settings, widgets for updating your online preferences, changing colours and themes, adding new widgets. You know the sort of stuff you might need once or twice a year. Think favourites list.

5. News – this is external news and information that might be broader – about your industry or the place you live, hobbies and interests. You won’t check this so often but may be useful to keep a tab of top stories every so often just to keep your news junkie status up to date….

I’m now writing a netvibes widget for .name in UWA (the Universal Widget Architecture) so it should work on every platform, except of course Vista, it’s designed to fit in the Toolbox part of any dashboard.


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