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Power BI Best Practices — What To Consider When Preparing a Report


Aug 10, 2022 - 7 minute read

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Urszula Pukalska BI Analyst

Ula is an enthusiast of employing data visualisation and visual analysis as a means to support project teams in their decision-making processes. She possesses over 10 years of experience in software development and project management. In her free time, she enjoys reading articles on spatial planning and modernist architecture as well as calorie cycling with friends.

See all Urszula's posts

2988 HC Digital Transformation 476X381


Today, everyone can create a chart — a few clicks in Excel or Power BI, and there you go! Data visualisation used to be reserved for data analysis in science, but now it has become more available to the public. When trying your hand at data visualisation, you’ll likely be doing many things manually, which has a great advantage — you need to think about what you’re doing.

When I decided to practice my data visualisation skills, I bought a small exercise book “Wykresy unplugged” (“Charts unplugged”) by Przemysław Biecek, Ewa Baranowska, and Piotr Sobczyk. Armed with crayons, I started to learn who invented which chart and how to create them. I realised that understanding data and presenting it well to other people isn’t simple, but it is something you can learn. I also had a thought that when we use business intelligence tools, we don’t always care how the chart looks or what it says — it’s just there out of the box, ready with a few clicks.

There are many books, papers, and other resources that will offer you guidelines and general rules on creating charts and reports. In this article, I’m going to share Power BI best practices worth considering when you’re about to create a new report. Following them can make a significant difference and get you the best results.

Power BI Best Practices for Report Creation

There are several aspects people often forget when preparing reports. However, they can also greatly affect the outcome of your efforts, so it’s good to put some thought into them at the beginning of your work.


This is one of the most important pieces of information you should establish because the level of detail in your report will depend on who will be using it. For example, C-level executives may look for a management report which contains KPIs and tiles with indicators, and doesn’t necessarily need detailed tables analysts would require. Moreover, you should understand what actions your audience will take after seeing the report, so you can adjust it to their needs even further.

Keeping this in mind will help you make sure that your report presents all the required data and minimise the risk of creating a report that is of no use to the end users. This risk is much higher when you only ask what the report should look like because it’s likely that the end users cannot imagine it until they actually see the data.

Distribution Options

We often take it as a given that our report will always be in a digitalised form — we expect it to be published in the cloud through Power BI Service or SharePoint, embedded in MS Teams, or sent by email. However, someone might want to print it out —in such a case, the report must be in light colours for the best result. I even heard about cases where reports were still displayed on projectors, which means their details or colours would be degraded. Therefore, it may be worth considering how the audience will use your report. A report may be also embedded into an application — it should then match the app’s design. Microsoft continues to release new functionalities in Power BI and the number of distribution options is growing. The best approach is to share your report in a way it fits the needs of the end user.


Everyone benefits from accessibility. Accessible designs improve access to information for individuals with or without disabilities. When creating a report, consider the different types of users who will leverage it. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a set of rules that should be implemented to make your report more available to everyone.

First, use basic fonts and make sure the writing isn’t too small. If your report contains more text, the sentences should be short, simple, and meaningful — it’ll help people who use screen readers. In fact, this also benefits people without impairments. How many times have you read a very long or complex sentence and had to re-read it?

Keep your visuals in an order that allows for keyboard-only navigation. A few years ago, I broke my right arm. For four weeks, I used my left hand as the main hand and navigating through applications and websites was much easier with a keyboard than a mouse.

Add tables with data to the charts and use meaningful titles for screen reader users. Ensure that colour contrast between the font and background is at least 4.5:1 — there are colour contrast calculators to help you with that.

People can see colours differently even if they don’t have sight impairments —men can see less difference in colour hue and saturation, therefore, it’s worth considering not having too many similar colours on the same chart. About 8% of men and 0.5% of women are colour blind and usually, it manifests in the inability to distinguish between red and green. Those colours are used as sentiment colours — in many cases, green means something good (growth) and red something bad (decrease). For improved accessibility, consider using green and purple or blue and orange. If it’s not an option, try to use bold text, different hues or saturation, or add +/- for numerical values. There are websites and applications that can simulate colour blindness, so you can test your choices.

Everything mentioned above is rather basic and doesn’t exhaust the topic. For more comprehensive guidelines, consult Microsoft's checklist for creating more accessible reports. Power BI also has built-in accessibility features, and as an author, you don’t have to configure them. The features include keyboard navigation, screen-reader compatibility, high contrast colour view, focus mode, and the “show data table” option.

Look and Feel

First of all, declutter, declutter, declutter! Remove all unnecessary gridlines, omit the y-axis if your points have labels, and sort the results — this way, your chart will support your story.

Figure 1: Chart examples, source: 5 Data Visualisation Best Practices

If you or your client have a brand book, use it while keeping in mind how the report will be distributed. In Power BI, you can create theme files with JSON to define the style of visuals you’re going to use — it will save you time because you won’t have to adjust every single part of the visual (fonts, axes, backgrounds, colours, titles). Documentation for JSON files is generally available in the Microsoft documentation, and you can use snippets for assembling Power BI Themes on GitHub. Prepare an image with a background, header, and logo — this way, you can use it as a canvas background instead of building it from blocks every time you create a new page or report.

Colours should support the story, and good contrast is key. Keep the meaning of one colour the same across the entire report. Imagine you’re preparing a sprint burn-up chart to visualise how much work and in what state you have on your plate. Use the same set of colours for the states on other visuals and reports — your audience won’t have to figure out what a given colour means on a given chart. Apply the same technique to format numbers and dates.

Leverage as many as possible out-of-the-box features as they are well-designed, tested, and supported throughout the product lifecycle. If you want to have your slicers hidden, you can use the filter pane in Power BI instead of having a group of slicers with a bookmark to hide this group.


In most cases, you won’t have a design team that could prepare the visual side of the report for you — they won’t give you a set of fonts, colours, graphics, or advice. Most likely, you’re going to have to do it all yourself. Therefore, it’s advisable to involve your client or end user in the design preparation or implementation, because the sooner you get their feedback, the smaller the cost of change will be.

You may also want to know what your end users think about the report, what features they like or what they would add or change. It may be a good idea to prepare a simple questionnaire that is linked to the report, so you can review the answers and plan further development.

Finally, add an “About” page with the business description, version number, and information on how often the report is refreshed. Even having a change log (as a link to a separate page or document) is worth considering, especially if the content of the report is subject to change. You should also add contact information for questions, reporting issues, and submitting new ideas.

Final Thoughts

Preparing a report may seem easy, after all, creating a chart only takes a few clicks. The difficult part is keeping the end users and their needs in mind. You should remember that the report isn’t for you, but for other people who, at the end of the day, will make decisions based on the data your report presents. Taking into account the Power BI best practices I discussed in this article will help you create reports that support the users in achieving their goals.

2988 HC Digital Transformation 476X381
Urszula Pukalska BI Analyst

Ula is an enthusiast of employing data visualisation and visual analysis as a means to support project teams in their decision-making processes. She possesses over 10 years of experience in software development and project management. In her free time, she enjoys reading articles on spatial planning and modernist architecture as well as calorie cycling with friends.

See all Urszula's posts

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