You Can’t Slice and Dice Data in Our Reports and Dashboards, and There’s a Reason


“I want to change dates on the fly in my report, but this seems impossible. Am I missing something?”

Yes. And no.

Actually, this is purely intentional. On purpose! That’s right, we don’t want users to change dates on the fly.

Yeah, you are probably thinking we’re crazy.

You may be right. It was a bold decision back at the beginning of DashThis, to say no to users regarding changing dates on the fly.

I compare this to Basecamp’s continuous refusal to implement Gantt charts in their project management tool.

The thing is that when you receive your phone bill, do you change the dates? Do you change them when you check your bank account statement? Or when you look at your past month’s performance in your fantasy football league?

No. Because you are looking at a report. A static view that tells you how it went during that period.

You are not analyzing and playing with the data to find out correlations or causes of some events. In other words, you are not mining to extract knowledge.

You are not performing data mining. You are reporting information to someone else (the boss! the client!).

In other words, as a Web analyst, it’s your job to dig and extract buried pieces of information and make sense of it so it’s useful for the organization or clients you work for.

The end result of that work is a report where your findings are summarized and molded into a digestible report your client or boss will use to gauge its performance.

Would you like your client to slice and dice the data in the report, keeping asking you irrelevant questions? You know how it is. It’s preferable that a client or your boss doesn’t start digging into the raw data too often.

So here we are. We developed a reporting tool, not a data mining tool. Hence, you can’t change dates on the fly or explode information into smaller bits at will.

We developed a tool so you can save time and energy when you need to provide stakeholders with a report about your analysis. This was built to help you put the emphasis on what’s important to them.

In short, we believe analysis and hard core data mining should be done with other tools. Adwords and Google Analytics  are the best to help you to peel the data and extract useful information.

Once this is done, you will probably want to present the results to your client into a beautiful, easy to read, simple to digest report.

This is where DashThis comes in!

And you know what?

Implementing such feature into DashThis will complexify the tool greatly. Our mission is to build a simple, but high value-added reporting tool. Adding such feature comes with a cost and we firmly believe this wouldn’t be a major benefit to our users.

The more features, the more complexity. We are aiming for the quality of the overall solutions–not a glut of features that make you want to tear your hair out.

After all, the need here is to create reports, not to play with the data, right?

Stéphane has been working on business Web projects for more than 15 years. He has a computer science degree and a MBA specialized in e-commerce from Laval University in Quebec City. That also explains why his writing can sound weird: He is a French Canadian!

Want to be a guest writer on the DashThis blog? Drop us a line at!
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