Below are some new (maybe old for some of you!) tips & hints that will come in handy when building new Power BI reports:
Use the Shift + Arrow Keys to Move Items in Bigger Increments
If you’re trying to get the location of a visual just right, and need to use the arrow keys instead of your mouse, try holding the Shift and arrow key at the same time to make the visual move in larger increments. I find this useful when I have several visuals lined up horizontally or vertically and don’t want to change the alignment by clicking and dragging with the mouse.
Align your Visuals
When aligning items, using the Align button may not always get things exactly where you want (i.e. the text part of the visual does not line up with the text of another visual). In these cases I’ve found that using a line shape as a reference gets the job done. I’ll place either a vertical or horizontal line that spans the size of both visuals and use it as a guide for lining up my visuals (and delete it once I’m done).
Aligning your visuals makes sure that your report looks clean and professional and does not draw users away from the information that you are presenting.
Avoid Creating Borders for Your Visuals and Slicers
Borders tend to break the flow of your dashboard and take away from the aesthetics of your report. If you really want to show where a visual starts/ends, try using a background color instead. Make the backgrounds consistent for all the visuals on the page, and make the spacing your visuals consistent. The fewer markings and unnecessary markups that your report has, the cleaner it will look and the better your story will flow.
Divide your Dashboard and Line Up Visuals so They Flow Together
While designing your report, think about the layout of your visuals, and try to position them in a way that avoids staggering items across the page. Practice dividing the page into 3-6 sections and place your visuals within those sections.
Create a Page Margin
Don’t use a border to do this. Instead, try leaving an equal amount of space between your visuals and the edge of the page on the left, right, and bottom sides.
Create New Report Using Save As to Carry Over the Same Theme
As you probably already know, you can’t copy and paste visuals from one .pbix file to another. A workaround for this (if you are starting a brand new report), is to do a Save As on your existing report and give it a new name. From there, remove the visuals that you won’t be using, and keep the ones that you will want to keep for formatting and color themes. All you’ll need to do then is replace the values in the fields with those of your new source.
Create a Mobile layout for your pages
With the latest update from Power BI, you now have the ability to create a Mobile layout of your reports. What you may not know, is that if you don’t pick one, users will see a “View in landscape only” message letting your users know that “Hey, this report wasn’t optimized to view in your mobile device!” – Not really what you want to be showing 🙂 . So get in the habit of creating a Mobile layout for all the pages in your reports, even if it shows a subset of all the visuals in the page.
User Colors Smartly
Don’t just pick colors that you like or that look good. Colors are another way to help convey a message or guide users through the data being presented, and choosing the right palette is just as important as choosing the right visual. Try to think about the data that in your report, and whether a user would infer an answer or identify a pattern more quickly with the aid of the colors in the visualization. For example, if showing the same category across multiple visuals in your page, make the categories follow the same color scheme across all visuals. Make the colors distinct enough so that a user looking at a legend can easily tell one category from another. If you have a visual that shows temperature, consider using warm/cold colors.
There are a couple of websites that I’ve been using to help me with both color schemes and color gradients that I highly recommend adding to your toolbox:
- Color Gradient Maker
- Use this if you are creating a heat-map type chart and want to show changes from one color to another. You can choose how many steps for the gradient, as well as the start and end colors. It will then render the different colors and provide you with the HEX value for each color!
- This site is great for creating color themes that flow together. The color wheel selector is easy to use and you can export the HEX value for all the colors in a text format, HTML, CSS, etc. You can also test how the colors will render for users who are color blind.