Create Your Own Dashboards with Browser Tabs

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blank google chrome tabToday a simple hack worth its weight in gold.

I’ve spent countless hours working to align the efforts of Marketers and Information Technologists to develop “dashboards,” those mythical creatures that reveal all pertinent data — and only pertinent data — on one elegant screen. It is a noble quest. It is also very difficult, both from the Marketing requirements side and the IT execution side.

What is the most important information to reveal and what does it need to be cross-indexed against — promotional schedules bumped against point of sale data? Next to social media activity? Or should it be overall online buzz? The Marketer (or Publicist…or both!) tears out his or her hair identifying what is most useful for most marketers. Then the IT staffer is left to tap a bunch of internal system feeds, mash them up against Software as a Service “out of the box” dashboards and somehow shoe-horn them onto a useful screen. Add to that permissions as to who can see what and generally scope creep reigns supreme. These projects take forever and, often, few are satisfied with the end result.

I will forever believe in the power of the ultimate enterprise dashboard as I have seen them and they are terrific. I firmly believe that massively scaled organizations should see the “whole board” through a powerful, focused lens.

But often I see 80% of the power being attainable via the simplest of hacks. I approach it like this:

  • I have at least 4 browsers (as with many of my tips, this may require speaking with IT — it is worth it!)
  • I use a Mac and run Chrome, FirefoxRockmelt, and Safari. I could run more but this is sufficient.
  • I assign a purpose to each browser — basically, which dashboard is it? For me:
    – Rockmelt is content and social
    – Firefox is analytics and SEO
    – Chrome is communication and scheduling (and advertising when I am running campaigns)
    – Safari is general surfing.
  • Whatever feels right works, though some browsers are better at certain things than others.
  • For each browser I assign the set of tabs I’d like to have open at launch. For example, in Rockmelt, my content and social browser, I launch the following tabs:
    – WordPress Admin
    – McCarthy Digital Blog/Site Front-End
    – Twitter
    – McCarthy Digital Facebook Page
    – Google+
    – LinkedIn
    – Dashboard (tweet and update scheduler)
    – Sometimes Hootsuite, depending how I am feeling that week!

It opens to this:

Rockmelt Tabs

Switching between the tabs gets me every data point I could need to handle this aspect of my marketing. You can imagine what is in the analytics/SEO configuration of Firefox, the scheduling admin configuration of , etc. It’s all about aggregating those things you need to see quickly, all in one container. Then, open them in order and analyze, act, etc. Note: I do find it critical to have one “clean” browser to just surf without distraction.

If you’re not sure how to set up tabs at launch, here’s a speedy how-to for the two most common ways to configure tabs:

  1. Under the application (browser) name, there is a preferences option. Select it. There will be an option to “open the following pages.” This is where you specify the pages you’d like to see at launch. The easiest way is to set up the tabs first in the browser view, then select “use current.” You can always change it.
  2. Sometimes this option is under the “tools” menu. It works the same, though, with options to set them up right there or use the ones that are currently open.

It’s about a fifteen- to thirty-minute job. But, once done, you’ll be that much closer to having the dashboard you need to perform cross-system analyses, correlations, and insights just that much faster. Good luck and feel free to fire questions or suggestions my way or just leave them in the comments. The above is merely how I do it.

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