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When is a dashboard not a dashboard?

Last week I wrote “When is a report not a report?” I was talking about all the different ways you could use a Salesforce report. Despite a very similar title, today I want to talk about definitions of “dashboard.”

It’s hard to understand each other if we use different definitions for the same word!

So let’s make sure we understand dashboard.

For me, deep in Salesforce every day, when I hear “dashboard,” I’m immediately thinking of something like this:

or this:

But if you’re new to Salesforce, or even more if you’re not even using Salesforce yet and are describing what you need out of a system, you’re probably using the word “dashboard” entirely differently.

For example, clients regularly ask for “a student dashboard where I can see how they’re doing in school and in our program, who their parents are, etc.” That is a request to see, in a convenient single place, how a single student is doing.

When I build that in Salesforce, it’s going to look something like this:

"Wait," you might be thinking, "that’s a Salesforce screenshot, but it’s not a 'dashboard,' it’s a 'contact record page.'"


Lightbulb moment!

“Record page” = “Dashboard”

And this makes sense if you think about the automotive metaphor that “dashboard” comes from. The car’s dashboard is where you glance to immediately understand what is the status of your car: speedometer, odometer, fuel level (or charge level in an EV), any maintenance warnings, etc. So I’m totally on board with clients that like to think of having a “student dashboard” in that way.

It’s just that we already use the word “dashboard” for something else in Salesforce. So it might confuse me at first.

In Salesforce, dashboards are graphical representations of a series of underlying reports. Therefore, Salesforce dashboards are for looking at aggregate data.

[One more quick definition: A report looks at many records in your database, usually filtered, grouped, and sorted. Of course, if you have sorted and/or filtered, you can make a chart. It's charts that go on dashboards.]

If you’re talking about data for only one person (or program, or organization, or donation, or…), then in Salesforce terms you’re talking about “a record page.”

Can you decide to call your student record page the “student dashboard?” Of course you can. It just might take me (or other Salesforce professionals) a moment to realize what you're talking about.


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