Building Accessible Dashboards

IMPORTANT: This document is specific to Sigma dashboards. We recommend trying out Sigma’s new Workbooks feature instead.

Accessibility is incredibly important to consider when building dashboards and visualizations for large audiences. This means content should be perceivable, operable, and understandable for your viewers (see Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
Sigma supports a variety of features that aim to improve accessibility of dashboards and the product in general. The following article will discuss a few of these features and some recommended best practices for building accessible dashboards. 

Summary of Content

Examples of Accessibility in Sigma
Best Practices for Authoring Accessible Dashboards
    Keep Dashboards Simple
    Choose Accessible Colors
    Use Titles and Captions
    Create Accessible Visualizations
    Use Dashboard Controls
Related Resources

Examples of Accessibility in Sigma

  • Color palettes for color blind audiences
  • Text elements for titles and captions
  • Visualization legends, data labels, and other formatting options
  • Visualization tooltips
  • Filters to focus in on data and reduce visual noise in visualizations
  • Keyboard shortcuts (Type ⌘ / to open the keyboard shortcut panel anywhere in Sigma)
  • Contrast standard compliance


Best Practices for Authoring Accessible Dashboards

Keep Dashboards Simple 

After conducting your own analysis, you likely have a wealth of information you would like to share with your dashboard’s audience. While it may be tempting to fill your dashboard with complex visualizations and detailed text, beware of building overcrowded displays that quickly overwhelm your viewers.

  • Ask yourself exactly what information you would like to share with your audience. Content that is not relevant to this goal acts as clutter and draws viewers away from your central message.
  • Limit the complexity of your visualizations by reducing the number of plot points displayed.
  • Aggregate data in visualizations when possible. Aggregating columnar data reduces visual complexity by reducing the number of marks on the page. For example, it’s much easier to look at hundreds of rows of sales data by quarter than by exact date.
    The image below compares the same sales data displayed by date on the left and then grouped by quarter using Sigma’s DateTrunc on the right.
  • Include guiding text, but keep it short and to the point. Learn more about text.


Choose Accessible Colors

  • Use color-blind friendly color palettes for both dashboards and visualizations. Sigma allows you to set color palettes at both the individual visualization and dashboard levels.
    On a dashboard: Create a custom theme, and select one of our three color-blind palettes.
    On a visualization: Open the visualization in its parent worksheet, and select one of our three color-blind palettes from the color menu in the visualization editor’s Plot tab.

  • You can also create your own color palettes. If you choose to do so, we recommend using a color contrast tool. This will help you find the text and background colors that meet standards for contrast ratios (standard text should have a 4.5:1 contrast ratio).


Use Titles and Captions

Expecting your audience to know your data and dashboard content as well as you, especially right off the bat, is a hard ask. Include titles and captions on your dashboards to provide them with the context they need to get the most out of your report.

  • When you create visualizations, be sure to give them and their plotted fields clear, concise titles. This can be done from your worksheet’s visualization editor panel.
  • Use dashboard text elements to give additional information on dashboards. Text elements can be used for a variety of purposes, from dashboard headers and descriptions to caption in-line with visualizations and controls.
  • Use language that is clear and approachable. This means ditching jargon, acronyms and other abbreviations.
  • Dashboard text elements support hyperlinks. Use descriptive stand-alone text on links (e.g. Add your link to the text “Learn more about cats” instead of “click here”).

  • Like text links, button elements should have descriptive labels. For example, if you create a button that downloads a PDF copy of your dashboard, the label “Download PDF” is more useful than “Click Me”.
  • Choose easy-to-read fonts (e.g. Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, and Calibri), rather than decorative or overly stylized ones.
    Sigma dashboards allow you to set both text and data fonts. Organization admins can also add custom fonts. Learn more about font options and check out our recommended font combinations.


Create Accessible Visualizations

We recommend starting to think about dashboard accessibility while you’re still in your worksheet(s) creating visualizations.

  • Take advantage of the format options available in your worksheet’s visualization editor panel. Legends, tooltips, data labels, and axis labels are just some of the formatting options you can use to add depth to your visualizations.
  • While you are encouraged to use format options on your visualizations, be mindful of which ones you choose. Keep your visualizations simple by adding only the formatting and text that enhance them. Otherwise you may find your dashboard cluttered with visual noise.
  • As was mentioned in the section above titled “Choose Accessible Colors”, dashboards and visualizations should use color-blind friendly color palettes. Learn more.
  • Add visualization titles and field names that support your data message. This means clear concise language without barriers like acronyms. Learn more about text.
  • Limit the complexity of your visualizations by reducing the number of plot points displayed.


Use Dashboard Controls

Controls allow your audience to filter, parameterize, and dive deeper into your data. They should be made accessible and can simultaneously be used to improve accessibility in your dashboard.

  • Give your controls titles that your audience will understand. For example, “Total Quantity” is clearer than “sum(Quantity)”.
  • When using custom display values in text based controls, use identifiable display text.

  • You have the option to choose from two different date range selectors. While both variations serve a purpose, our simple data range selector is often preferred for ease of use.

  • Keep accessibility in mind while you create controls. How do you want your viewers to interact with your data? How can controls be used to improve accessibility and comprehension in your dashboards?


Related Resources

Application Embedding
Dashboard Settings
Dashboard Layouts
Dashboard Controls


IMPORTANT: This document is specific to Sigma dashboards. We recommend trying out Sigma’s new Workbooks feature instead.