Creating a dynamic dashboard in Google Spreadsheets to track sales for a digital product launch

Earlier this year I worked with The Write Life team to develop some behind-the-scenes sales data analysis during their 3-day digital bundle sale. The team wanted a simple way of gauging progress and seeing how the different sales channels fared as the sale took place.

The final dashboard I designed looked and worked like this (view the Google Sheet), and below I’ll show you how I created it:

Dashboard in action
Interactive sales dashboard in a Google spreadsheet


The Write Life (TWL) is an awesomely popular resource site for writers looking for hints, tips, recommendations and inspiration on a variety of topics. (Full disclosure: this website was founded by my wife, Alexis Grant). As part of their ongoing efforts to provide great quality content and products to their audience, The Write Life team put together a bundle of digital writing products, which they offered for sale at an unbelievable low price for 3 days in March of this year. It was a huge success for the team, making $34,000 over the 3 days.

I worked with the TWL team beforehand to set some sales targets that we thought were achievable, based on our knowledge of the different channels (i.e. where the sales would come from) and some calculations on conversion rates. (That’s a topic for another day!)

The sale began on a Monday morning and concluded at midnight on Wednesday, so the team wanted a visual way to gauge progress and focus their marketing efforts during this time.

My solution was to create a dashboard that was dynamic so the team could easily see progress and act accordingly.

Step 1: Remind me again, why are we doing this?

Before diving into the weeds, it’s worth thinking about what insights you’re after. This is a really important first step, as it’ll determine where you go with the analysis.There were several questions we wanted to answer during the sale and then display graphically:

– What is the progress towards the total sales target?
– What is the progress for each of our sales channels?
– What is the proportion of our sales from each channel?
– When are people buying the products?

These would be extremely useful pieces of knowledge for the team, so they could act upon them as the sale progressed, hopefully increasing sales. For example, the TWL team could compare how many sales were coming from their email marketing campaign compared to affiliates or paid advertising.

There are three key pieces to a dynamic dashboard:

1. The raw data
2. An intermediary table that updates based on some parameter, e.g. a user input
3. A chart or series of charts

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Step 2: Preparing the raw data

The raw sales data was downloaded from ejunkie (a shopping cart and digital delivery service that TWL used) as a text file. This was easily copy-pasted into a Google spreadsheet.

As a quality control check, after each import of data I ran a quick pivot table report to get an instant summary of the new data. This is a useful step to: 1) check the data you have for any anomalies (such as gaps that suggest it’s incomplete), and 2) to get a “feel” for the data before introducing complexity (this will ensure you understand the data before doing anything too fancy).

The raw data was a big mishmash of people buying in different locations around the world and through different channels, so without some finessing, it wasn’t providing any real insight.

There were, in fact, six different sales channels, including the TWL community itself, affiliates and paid advertising, so it was important to segment the data along the lines of those channels.

I took the following steps to transform the raw data into something more useful:

1. The date and time stamp from ejunkie was split into its component parts and labeled, so I had a day-of-sale category (e.g. Day 1), a separate time stamp and finally, an hour-by-hour category (e.g. 8am to 9am, 9am to 10am, etc.).

2. A timezone based on the buyer’s country was added for each sale and then converted to an offset factor from GMT, so that all the times could then be normalized to the local time in that country and thus comparisons could be made. This was done so we could compare user behavior globally and determine, for example, whether users were buying in greater numbers at 9am local time, shortly after receiving a marketing email.

3. The Sales Channel category was standardized for all the data in the spreadsheet, so every sale was categorized into one of the six sales channels, Channel A through F.

4. The Buyer Country column was standardized into more general categories to facilitate the analysis. The major countries were kept (e.g. United States, Canada, United Kingdom) but the smaller countries with very few sales were grouped into “Rest of the World” to prevent a long tail skewing summary tables and charts.

Now that we had the raw data cleaned, checked (pivot tables) and categorized, it was ready to be summarized into a suitable table format for the dynamic dashboard.

Step 3: Setting up the intermediary tables

In the dashboard, there were two main charts showing sales by channel and sales by local time. So I needed to create dynamic tables for both of these. This was a two-step process ultimately requiring four intermediary tables. Two were summary tables from the raw data and two were the dynamic tables that would underpin the charts.

The sales channel summary table was created using a countifs formula to automatically pull in sales from the raw data table, using the following formula:

=countifs(‘Raw Data’!$D$3:$D$438,”<“&$B2,’Raw Data’!$P$3:$P$438,C$1)

The data table, with formulas showing, looked like this:

Dashboard data summary
Summary data table for dashboard showing formulas

The second data table, for sales by local time, was set up in the same way.

With this summary set up, the next step was to create a method for capturing the user’s choice. For example, if the user wanted to see only data up to noon on day 2 of the sale, then the chart adjusted accordingly.

Step 4: Using the data validation method

One way to offer a choice to a user in a spreadsheet is by using the data validation method. This creates a nifty drop-down menu from which the user can select a parameter, in this case a sales channel or specific time, and then point the data to this choice so it will update automatically, without needing to write any lines of code. It’s a pretty simple technique but surprisingly powerful.

First, I created two unique lists of choices to present to the user: one for dates and times, the other for sales channels.

Using the Data > Validation feature on the highlighted list of values that I’d just created above, I could then create a user input menu, e.g. for sales channels:

Data Validation

The user is then presented with:

Data Validation

Another table was required to power the sales chart, which changed based on the user’s choice from the drop-down menu discussed above. This table used “index” and “match” formulas to show only the data from the sales table that corresponded to the user’s choice, as follows:

TWL chart table

A similar table was created for the time sales data, running off the normalized time summary table.

Step 5: Creating the dashboard

Finally, the fun stuff! Props to you if you’ve made it this far. This is where the magic happens, where your charts come alive.

For the sales analysis, a stacked bar chart was most appropriate as it allowed the TWL team to see how many sales had been made so far versus how many were still required to hit the target, as follows:

Setting up the chart
Setting up the chart

The chart adjusts each time a user picks a new parameter from the drop-down menu, because this choice alters the underlying data.

To complete the dashboard, I added a sales pie chart (running off the same table as the one above) and a vertical bar chart for the normalized time data.

As final finishing touches, I changed the shading of the bars in the chart to green to match the TWL brand, removed the gridlines, added the TWL logo and presented the dashboard in full screen mode. I also added a running total in the header bar of the dashboard — this was a simple formula linked to the data table, so it updated as a user choose different times to review. The final dashboard looked like this:

Dashboard in action
Interactive sales dashboard in a Google spreadsheet

While this only took a couple of hours to put together, it came in handy during the sale. We were able to see which channels were sending the most sales in real time, which spurred the team to take specific actions to continue that momentum.

The dashboard also served as a camaraderie-builder and motivator for the team to rally around — it was energizing to see our progress, particularly once we began to surpass expectations in certain categories. And once we bypassed our sales targets on day 3, it felt like a real win to see the bar on the chart depicting “sales-remaining-to-reach-target” disappear.

You might also enjoy this post: 10 techniques for dashboards in Google Sheets

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39 thoughts on “Creating a dynamic dashboard in Google Spreadsheets to track sales for a digital product launch”

  1. This is amazing! Would it be possible for you to share the actual sheet? I got a bit lost and would love to see it in action so I can apply it to my own 🙂 Thanks in advance!

      1. Unfortunately, data validation drop downs don’t work in read-only version of Google Sheets. So the dynamic nature of the dashboard can’t be seen in the link I posted in my previous comment. However, hopefully seeing the static dashboard still gives you an idea of what’s involved.

  2. Ben thanks for the article. I was looking for a way to build custom analytics dashboard for my trading data and found your blog.

    Its a bit off topic but I can’t help but notice those cool animated pictures you have posted. I would love to use them for my site. How did you make them?

    1. Hey Dustin, they’re GIFs that I’ve inserted into my post, same way as a regular old image (although when uploading GIFs to WordPress, you have to insert the GIF at full size for it to work. You can adjust the size later in the HTML.). To record the GIF I’ve been using Licecap or GifGrabber. I had better success with Licecap. Hope that helps and thanks for checking out the blog post.

        1. Hi! I used a formula for the titles to make them dynamic. Looking at each of the titles in the dashboard:

          Digital Sales Dashboard – this is just static text.

          Total Sales: 90 – this is dynamic and the formula in the cell where the title shows, is:

          ="Total Sales: "&Y20

          This joins a static line of text “Total Sales: ” to a value which comes from my data.

          312 short of target – again, this is dynamic so the cell showing the title is actually a formula again. This formula is a little more complex:

          =if(Y20>Y22,concatenate(Y20-Y22," sales past target! Woohoo!"),if(Y20=Y22,"You hit the target! Good job!",Y21&" short of target"))

          Essentially, I’m just comparing total sales so far (in cell Y20) against my target total (in cell Y22), then displaying text based on whether I’m below, equal to or past my sales target. I’ve used nested IF() statements to do this. The data for the sales so far (Y20) is linked to the data validation drop down menus, so will change along with the charts when a user selects a different time.

  3. I am new to working with data validation, but I love how dynamic your charts are. Is it possible to segment more than once within the charts? I would like to create a traffic source pie chart which allows you to select different departments to see different traffic sources (direct, organic, referral) by month. I am unsure if data validation can include more than a set of information to represent the different traffic sources in a chart, and if there can be two drop level options to allow a user to select month and department.

    1. Hi Sierra, you can definitely have multiple data validations running, so that you can use two (or more) measures to segment your data. I’ve mocked up a quick example along the lines you describe, which I hope may help:

      There are two choices (i.e. two data validations for month and department) highlighted in the yellow cells, which can affect the pie chart data in the green cells. Changing the selections will change the data which then changes the pie chart (the title is also a formula so that it changes with the data too). Hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks!

  4. Hi Ben,

    Great article. Has helped me create my own dashboard.

    I have a question though, is there a way to stop multiple users overriding a dynamic filter and therefore affecting the data that other users see? In Excel for example users could open an xlsx. as read only so not affect other users.

    I have potentially 100+ users of a dashboard and am reluctant to create a dashboard for each user if I don’t need too. I am concerned that there will be a challenge if everyone is trying to look at their data at the same time – the dynamic filter will keep being amended!

    Do you know of any workaround for this problem?


    1. Thanks Stephan!

      Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a way to allow users to independently change the dynamic validation filters on their sheet view only, without overriding what others are seeing in their respective sheets too.

      So, you could get people to create a copy of the sheet and have their own version, but this has drawbacks (namely that they need a google account, and secondly, they won’t see any changes or updates to the master spreadsheet, and so would have to create new copies).

      I would try posting the question to the Google Docs Forum and see if anyone has any other ideas or workarounds there:!forum/docs


  5. I tried the same type of dashboard and the time to recalculate the fields is very slow. Your site looks instant – did you speed up the GIF image or is there something I’m doing wrong – I have a lot of fields to update.

    1. Hi Russ, I made no changes to the GIF – it’s showing in real time as a I recorded my screen. If you have a lot of variables and charts changing each time you do a recalculation then that can slow your dashboard down, or it could be caused by a slow internet connection given that Google sheets are in the cloud.

  6. Interesting article.
    I must be missing something, but how do you “publish” your dashboard? Do you give access to the spreadsheet to the user or are you using another mechanism?

      1. Thanks for your answer Ben – I am specifically interested in the “publish online as a webpage”. If I do that through (File>Publish and pick only the dashboard tab) I end up with a static page (user can no longer operate the data validation field such as the “Choose Channel”). Am I missing something?

        1. Hey PJM – so I’ve done some research on “publish online as a webpage” and you’re right, it seems anything you publish will be static. Apologies for sending you down a rabbit hole on that one 🙁

          Therefore I think your best, and maybe only, option is to share the spreadsheet with full editing rights but lock the entire sheet (and any raw data sheets) except for the data validation cells. You can do this by going to the Tools > Protect sheet… and then choosing to protect whole sheet except for specific cells. Check out this image to see protect screen pane on right side.

          Final step would be to click Share in top right of screen, select “Anyone with link can edit” and then copy and send that link to people you want to share dashboard with. Or you could enter their email addresses into the input box on this Share screen.

          1. Thanks Ben – I was really hoping that i was missing something there and that there was an easy way to do that. I will keep investigating.

  7. Hi Ben,
    I know this article is a bit old but it still be very helpful !
    Is there a way to publish this diagram on a google site allowing people to still be able to use field to filter data?
    Thanks for your reply

    1. Hi Clement! Unfortunately, as far as I know it’s not possible to publish on a google site and keep this dynamic functionality. The best option I’ve found for sharing dashboards with others, is to share the worksheets with editing rights, and then lock the entire sheet (and any raw data sheets) except for the data validation cells. You can do this by going to the Tools > Protect sheet… and then choosing to protect whole sheet except for specific cells.

      I also put some more Google sheets tips in this article:


  8. Hello Ben,

    I apologize in advance if this question is obtuse- but I am a novice at Sheets. I understand how to bring in drop-down menus, and how to create charts using data… but how do you make it interactive- i.e. how do you set the chart to change when a different drop down menu item is selected? I am not seeing any formula in the sheet…

    Thanks for any help that you can provide, as this is exactly what I am looking for!


    1. Hey Travis! Thanks for getting in touch and hopefully I can help out here.

      What you need to do now is have your table of data be linked to this drop down menu by formulas. For example, assume I had the drop down menu in cell A1 and it had two options (Option A or Option B).

      First I would need a table with ALL the data for Option A and ALL the data for Option B. Then I would have a second table with VLOOKUPs that gets data from this first table and uses the value in the drop down menu as the search criteria. This image shows what I mean:

      Data validation to update charts

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any further questions. Cheers.

  9. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting a little homework on this.
    And he in fact bought me lunch because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this subject here
    on your web page.

  10. Hi Ben,
    thanks for this awesome tutorial. I have now created a controlling dashboard for my product design startup to be able to dynamically compare our actual and target financial status and display which channels revenue comes from etc. . I would love to have the charts animate between changes to the parameters like yours do in the gif. How did you achieve this? Thanks in advance and all the best from Leipzig, Germany!

      1. Hi Ben,

        thanks for your reply. Creating the data validation and changing the data is not my problem. I mean the visual animated transitions between the different states. I know it’s possible to have google animate the status change of graphs, but I just don’t know how to implement it in the way it seems you have done it with your graphs… (

        Would be great if you could help with this topic!

        1. Hey Jonathan,

          The charts in the GIFs shown in this post are just regular static Google charts that change when the underlying data changes (e.g. from the data validation). I didn’t do anything (programmatically) to control the animation.

          Thanks for that link though! Looks interesting and I’ll definitely give it a try in my next apps script project. Could be a good blog post…

          Here’s another animation reference in the Google docs:


  11. Wow! This is what I am looking for. I want to create a report dashboard for my local business sales. The reporting is daily and monthly based, and use chard like your dashboard. I think it is possible. Right?

  12. Great article!
    I used your example as a basis for my own however substituting INDEX to return a list of values instead of VLOOKUP
    Was wondering how do you account for blanks?
    eg. depending on the dropdown the list of values may change
    Dropdown value 1 – 5 values across 3 items(A,B,B,C,C)
    Dropdown value 2 – 3 values across 2 items (A,A,B)
    Which gets converted to a pie chart however any fields in the chartable range which is blank is counted as its own value (D becomes the larger portion even though no data is present).

    1. Hi Jason,

      Yes, using the INDEX function is a great way of achieving this, probably better than VLOOKUP if you know how to use it. Pairs well with the MATCH formula for really flexible lookups.

      Do you have a sheet you can share? Usually I find that the chart tool adjusts correctly for blanks, so not sure what’s happening in your case.

      Also, have a look at this sheet of multiple drop-down menus, which may help or be of interest:

      It allows you to choose items in drop-down list 1, which then updates the choices in drop-down 2.


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