What is a Client Dashboard and How to Build One Without Code

Published on October 12, 2021

Whether you’re running an agency, freelancing or simply want the ability to display your operations at a glance, client dashboards can be a very valuable asset to your reporting stack.

Client dashboard example

However, they can be difficult to implement, especially if you don’t have any coding skills or developer buddies to help you out. For the dashboard novice, a lot of not-so-obvious questions instantly come up:


  • What is the difference between a client report and a dashboard? 
  • Why spend time implementing dashboards when you can simply send clients a weekly email? 
  • Is it possible to create a client dashboard without code?


In this post, we will cover these questions and more. Let’s get into it!




What is a client dashboard and why do you need one?


A client dashboard is a visual management tool used to display data. Contrary to a report, it’s usually updated in real-time, automatically, and is used to keep clients updated about project progress, KPIs, and metrics. 


Depending on your business model, industry and activity, there’s an array of benefits from using client dashboards. Some of the biggest are


  • Transparency: Client dashboards allow for real-time updates, providing a convenient and transparent reporting experience for clients.
  • Efficiency: They can save your team time and effort, automating some of the data collection associated with reporting (no more copying and pasting values every week).
  • Personalization: Dashboards can be totally personalized to provide the most relevant data to your clients, based on their expectations and feedback. 
  • Simplicity: No one likes to struggle through dozens of lines of data to identify key metrics. Dashboards help showcase results in a straightforward, easy-to-digest way.


For client-facing businesses, dashboards are a modern (and often underrated) way to go above and beyond by providing transparent reporting data visually to clients. Do you need some inspiration? Check out these Startup Metrics charts created with Softr below.

Paid vs non-paying subscribers chart in client dashboard

Paid vs Free Subscribers

Marketing site traffic chart in client dashboard

Paid vs Free Subscribers


Monthly Recurring Revenue growth chart in client dashboard

Monthly Recurring Revenue growth


These are great examples of interactive, live charts that are automatically updated to provide total transparency while requiring minimal time and effort commitment on the team. 


Now, let’s see how you can do it too!



How to build a client dashboard?


Now that we have a good understanding of what client dashboards are and how they can help your business, time for the fun part: how can you build one? There are three main ways to go about it: 



1. Developing in-house


This is the direction a lot of companies take for a lack of better options. With the help of their development team, they build client dashboards internally, hard-coding the features and integrations to pull data from various sources.


Pros:

  • Super customizable
  • Total control over the data 
  • Secure data handling


Cons:

  • Expensive (developer costs)
  • Complicated and time-consuming
  • Maintenance required



2. Purchasing a third-party solution


Another option is to use a dedicated dashboard tool, such as Tableau or Zoho Analytics. These turnkey solutions allow users to create dashboards easily, sometimes without advanced technical requirements.


Pros:

  • Easy to set up and start with
  • Integrates with your stack
  • Features ready-to-use templates 


Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Data has to go through another loop (might cause security issues with clients)
  • Limited personalization 



3. Using a no-code solution


The last option is to build dashboards yourself with a no-code platform like Softr, using a drag-and-drop interface and a user-friendly communication with an Airtable database.


Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to set up, plenty of templates available
  • Great for non-technical teams that want a granular level of customization


Cons:

  • You do have to do it yourself


As you might have guessed, the third option is our favorite one by far. Let’s take a look at what building a client dashboard without code looks like, and go over some of the best practices to keep in mind.



How to build a client dashboard without code using Softr?


Building a client dashboard requires different steps, from planning to data collection, designing and iterating. Let’s tackle one at a time.



1. Setting up objectives and strategy


As with any project, the planning and strategy come first. Ask yourself these key questions: 


  • Why do you want to build a client dashboard? 
  • What data does your client need to access? 
  • Which sources will these data points be extracted from? 
  • What type of charts will you provide?


It might seem overwhelming, but these basic questions should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent building something inadequate or starting something you’ll eventually have to start all over again (trust us, we’ve been there!). 5 key tips when planning your client dashboard project are to: 


  • Keep the client in mind: As exciting as the project is, it should be about them first. Do they even want a dashboard?
  • Choose your data carefully: Focus on selecting relevant data points that address the goals of your client and accurately deliver key information.
  • Pay attention to the chart type: Different chart styles convey different messages. Make sure to choose a relevant design (more on that in the next section)
  • Involve the client: The best and easiest way to ensure you’re doing things right is to communicate with your client and get their insights directly.


Dashboards can have a “wow” factor that will make you stand out with clients, but they need to be valuable. Otherwise, they won’t serve any purpose past the initial cool effect, and the idea is that your clients check them often, isn’t it?



2. Building the dashboard with Softr


On to the fun part: It’s time to build! If you’re not aware by now, Softr is a no-code online builder that connects an Airtable database with a drag-and-drop, easy-to-use interface to create websites, web apps, client portals and more.


Using the platform, you’re able to pull data stored on Airtable and build attractive charts, selecting from different types: bars, lines, areas, scatters, pies, donuts, and roses.

chart build with the help of Softr from Airtable

If you ever built a chart on Excel or Google Sheets, the building process will be very familiar. After selecting the Airtable Base, Table, and View that the data should be imported from, you get to play around with the charts, selecting the X and Y axes, orientation, design, and more. 


Check out our documentation to learn more. 



3. Going live, sharing, and adapting to different clients


Once your charts are created, it’s time to supercharge them with Softr! User accounts and permissions for example enable you to assign different dashboards for different users groups:


  • General KPI overview for managers
  • Progress towards project completion for clients
  • Quarterly ad spending for the marketing team 
  • etc.


The sky's the limit here. Involving clients at this stage can be very valuable to understand who has access to these charts and which data they need most. This will turn your client dashboards into an iterative and collaborative effort, providing more value and learning as you build a lasting relationship with your client.



4. Fine-tuning your project (optional)


Finally, now that your client dashboard is up and running you can consider some of the extended possibilities offered by Softr, and provide your clients with features such as extra collaborators, custom domains, single sign-on and more. 


Explore some of our plan features to consider which could be relevant for your own specific project.




Conclusion


We hope you now have a better grasp of what client dashboards are, how useful they can be for businesses, and how to start building one without code today. 


While we recommend dashboards as a way to go the extra mile for your clients, they’re only the beginning. Look into client portals and find ways to incorporate your dashboards into an even more personalized experience, providing each client with an interface and data of their own.


We look forward to seeing your dashboards!

About Softr


Softr is an easy-to-use no-code platform that turns Airtable bases into powerful web apps and client portals. Softr offers a way for you to authenticate your end-users, control access to your content and data based on conditional rules like roles, logged-in status, subscription plans etc. If you're using Airtable as a product catalog you can use a Softr template to build your e-commerce website. Or maybe you'd like to build a custom website for your travel journal, there's a template for that too!