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Best Kibana Dashboard Examples & Best Practices

data kibana May 26, 2022

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Someone recently asked me..

"What's the one thing every team should implement to save a whole lot of time and headache in the long-term?"

I have two answers to this question: first, having great documentation & Standard Operating Procedures (duh). Second, it's setting up a *banging* data dashboard. Yep, bet you haven't heard that one before. If you're curious why, give the rest of this post a read!

I'll also introduce you to the industry popular data visualization tool Kibana–the last tool in the ELK stack–along with some dashboard examples!

Data Search & Visualization 101

First, what's data visualization? 🤔

Data visualization–popularly referred to as data viz–is its own movement at the intersection of data, engineering, and design and it's essential to analyzing, monitoring, and extracting insights from data. Simply put, data viz is the discipline of representing information & data using visual elements like graphs, charts, and maps. Using visual elements, we're better able to pick up on trends compared to looking at a big spreadsheet. You can think of data viz as storytelling for big data.. and we all know how powerful storytelling is!

Ok, and what about data search in relation to data dashboards? 🤨

In December's newsletter issue on search, you learned how difficult it is to filter and sort through massive amounts of data and how engineers solve the issue by using a search and analytics engine. The use case I covered was for customer-facing features but with data dashboards, we're using the search functionality for internal business purposes like looking up user actions, and feature/product usage.

The importance of Data Dashboards

In the intro, I said setting up data dashboards is a must-have for every team. That's because using a data dashboard for search and visualization is critical in today's world of big data. Yet the majority of product managers have no idea what it is nor how it benefits the product roadmap and long-term team and product success.

What's a data dashboard?

Essentially a data dashboard is an interactive UI tool that businesses use to track, analyze, and display data like key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. It's used for business reasons to answer questions around specific goals, aims, and strategies given the data gathered every time a product is used.

A look at Kibana dashboards!

Kibana is a popular and free data dashboard that's a visual layer sitting on top of LogStash and Elasticsearch as part of the Elastic/ELK stack. Kibana's popularity is in part due to how easy it is to use, its simple and beautiful UI, and how many features it has (too many to list)!

Events generated in an app is captured and sent in real-time (streamed) to LogStash then Elasticsearch servers. Since Kibana is the visual layer on top of Elasticsearch, it accesses and uses the log data indexed in Elasticsearch databases.

Take a look at Kibana's data viz capabilities.

..and Kibana's search & query functionality:

Use data dashboards for team speed & efficiency

Let's take this scenario: the product marketing team wants a detailed customers list broken down by country that signed up for a trial of their product for re-marketing purposes. They come to you, the PM, to get this data for them.

Unfortunately, this is internal business data, therefore it exists in log files that only developers using complex technical tools and systems have access to. Here's where data dashboards come to the rescue: with data dashboards, non-engineering team members can also access and query internal-only data using a user-friendly interactive UI.

This is pretty amazing because it means:

  • The engineering team won't need to take time away from their core job
  • Less cross-functional communication overhead cost
  • The product manager and product marketing team don't have to wait around for the engineering team to give them what they need.

By removing this bottle neck of data being gated behind the dev team, everyone is able to move quicker and more efficiently. So while having a data dashboard isn't critical during the early phases of the SDLC (planning, building, and deploying), it is critical for long-term team and product success for after the product/feature launches.

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