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3 min read

BrightonSEO: Tony Lu – How real time dashboards can help you make better decisions

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

In this talk, Tony Lu shows us how to utilise real time dashboards using various data sources ranging from Google Analytics to social media APIs. Definitely follow along with the slides, located here, as there are loads of great visual examples in this talk. Tony’s head of digital analytics at CNN International, so knows a lot about big BI dashboards for editorial and C-suite teams. It’s clear he loves dashboards, and we’re ok with that.

We live in a world full of numbers. Adobe Analytics (Omniture) and Google  Analytics were the only real players back in the day. But nowadays we have so many new tools; the number we can use is expanding; too many numbers; it’s difficult in web analytics to utilise all of these tools in a good way. Note: this is a running theme – also check out Al’s talk on data dashboarding here.

In addition to web analytics, we also have access to lots of other data sources too; web, social insights, (and the rest!).

If you’re looking to build your own dashboard, there are tools out there such as Chartbeat which can help you. But these, and more approachable dashboards in Excel or Google Suites are clunky and difficult to use, share, and also can look a little unprofessional.

Tony’s shared his top tips for dashboard creation here:

  • Speak to your stakeholders to get the brief
  • Work on business case
    • What are they looking to achieve?
  • Sketch it all out on paper and pass it around to check it looks good
  • Use only vital stats only – simplicity is key. These may need to be shown on TVs!
  • Auto updates – people shouldn’t need to touch a dashboard. Treat it like a product you don’t need to interface with


Definitely check out the slides for the following:

CNN – current day performance. Includes top articles, top videos, traffic hourly (5 mins) etc

NME – top articles, sparklines for article traffic over last hour, screenshot of article being previewed, facebook reach stats (and comparison)(API)

NME Social – Facebook open graph API. Live social media performance. There’s an art to posting on Facebook so this helps them perform better.

Reddit – What’s popular right now on Reddit?

NME – top four pages. Use these to promote internal gamification/ competition.

How to get started in 3 easy steps

  1. Understand the vitals
    • Remove clutter
    • More is less
    • Avoid vanity KPIs
    • Focus on the end goal
  2. Shop around
    • Look at different types of tools out there (dashboarding tools)
    • Not all tools are created equally!
  3. Understand how an API works
    • Work smart, not hard

Bonus tip: Be prepared to fail.

Parting advice

Make it a product.  The more steps a user needs to do to view the dashboard, the less likely they are to use the dashboard. Try to make it as use as possible. Without a login if possible.

Realistic real time vitals. Don’t show any measurements if the business can’t make the change within that time period. It will become a vanity KPI.

Don’t go crazy with your colouring. We all like colours but don’t make a number bright red if it’s only -2% down. Use the colour to its potential not to attract attention.

Simplify. The more simple a dashboard is, the more insights one could get from a quick glance – the more likely they are to use the dashboard further and on a regular basis.

Not this final one, from an example of Tony’s:  – use Slack API to push competitor’s posts/website articles and push them to a chat in-stream. From another example from CNN: if a competitor post is shared over 2000 times in under 2 hours, it alerts the editorial team via a Slack chatroom.