On your journey to becoming a Power BI expert, there are a few bad habits you may fall into along the way. This is totally understandable and they won’t become apparent to you until you start to examine your reports from a different perspective.

While it may feel natural to develop your Power BI reports by tailoring them to how you think they should look, it is important to remember that you will almost certainly have a deeper understanding of it than those who will eventually read it. Any extra complexities may come naturally to you, but readers might have a tougher time grasping it.

In this insight, you will discover the 5 most common mistakes you can make while producing Power BI reports and what steps you can take to resolve them and make your reports more useful than ever.

Mistake #1: Data Overload

It’s tempting to try and cram in as much data as possible into a single report. But, this overload of data can lead your readers feeling more confused than informed.

Consequently, the best approach is to try and keep things simple and concise where possible. Rather than overwhelm the reader with all available metrics at once, instead consider giving each report a specific, focused direction. This allows you to then tailor the metrics you present around the chosen direction.

For example, you might have a combination of different data about user usage of your system and data regarding the cost and sales from the system. Instead of containing all of this within a single report, it might be easier on the reader to separate these reports with their own distinct direction, i.e. one that focuses on user usage and another on sales and costs. This will help present things more clearly to your readers.

Mistake #2: Graphical Noise

It is common for reports to quickly become overcrowded with too many colours and graphics. While you will want to make your reports “eye-catching” for your audience, it’s far too easy to get carried away with the various styling options and creating too much graphical “noise”. This may mean your presentation efforts will distract people from the most important aspect of your reports: the data.

The primary aim of a Power BI report is to show key business insights through data visualisations, so these can be used as a tool to drive meaningful business decisions. Adding too many colours and graphics pushes reports further away from their purpose, as they become more of an art piece than a support for company strategy.

To stay away from this mistake, we’d recommend using a maximum of 3-4 colours for your report, and that these are used consistently throughout. As an example, take a look at the following examples of the same report:

The report on the top is packed with graphical noise which, while attention-grabbing, takes the readers focus away from the data insights. Conversely, the layout of the report on the bottom is far simpler and features only four colours – dark blue for the report background, standard blue for the data set background, light blue as breaks between information and white for the text.

Using this simple, consistent format and minimal graphical noise helps viewers to stay focused on the key data insights.

Mistake #3: Inconsistency

With the significant time it takes to build a report, it’s common for little details to be missed. You wouldn’t think it, but minor inconsistencies can gradually build up and become a noticeable issue, from not keeping the same font style and size, to unaligned visuals. These can all contribute to making reports appear less professional and more challenging to look at.

When creating a report, you want to ensure that you keep to a strict set of rules and keep your visualisations consistent in design. Without this layer of consistency, readers may be distracted by unimportant areas. For example, let’s say you have a critical metric in the middle of your report, but lower on the page you have included a misaligned graph.

Which of these will draw the reader’s attention? The odd graph which may not be as much use for the business. This shows that inconsistencies can distract your viewers from the most valuable data you are presenting to them.

Mistake #4: Incorrect Labelling

When creating data visualisations, accurate labelling is crucial. An incorrect label can cause confusion amongst your readers and steer them away from the metrics you are attempting to showcase. While it can be hard to pinpoint what an “incorrect label” strictly is, to be safe we’d recommend going back to basics and follow a golden rule: “Keep it simple.”

It’s incredible how much of a difference you’ll notice when you remove the  unnecessary wording in your labels. They’ll tell your viewers exactly what they need to know about a specific data visual. Take a look at the following examples – one of the labels is clear and simple, whilst the other is overly complicated. Can you guess which one is which?

The labelling on the top example is too busy, explaining what the data is, where it came from and what order it is in. On the bottom, only a few words are used and it doesn’t waste time explaining where the data came from or its order, as both of these are displayed implicitly within the table visual itself. This demonstrates that having a simple label not only leads to less confusion, but also takes up less space on your report.

Mistake #5: Using The Wrong Charts

Finally, an often-forgotten rule in creating a Power BI report is using the correct chart/graph for the data you’re attempting to visualise. This can be broken down into 2 prominent issues:

  1. The representation of the data
  2. The orientation of the charts

For example, if you have a list of the “Top 5 Categories” of a piece of data and you want to display the percentage difference between each, a table, pie chart or vertical bar chart would be your best means of doing so. Conversely a line graph would be ineffective in these circumstances, as it would not adequately demonstrate the percentage differences.

With regards to orientation, a good rule of thumb is the data labels on a chart should always be on a straight line. If you are breaking this rule, you probably need to rotate your chart another 90 degrees. For example, if you use a vertical bar chart with slanted labels, rotating it into a horizontal bar chart should allow more space for your data labels so they can be straightened up.

Avoiding Mistake in Power BI

I hope this insight has given you a better understanding of the pitfalls to avoid when constructing a Power BI report, and how you can address them in future. If you are looking for further guidance, get in touch for more information.

Matt Hope, Software Consultant