Visual Analytics - How to revamp your viz?

by Elena Caric

This Monday DS6 had Luke Stoughton come in to talk about Visual Analytics. I really liked Luke’s training, it was fun and dynamic. We had already covered some data visualisation practices previously so now we picked up from there and went in actually using what we’ve learned.

For the first exercise Luke had some Tableau dashboards collected for us that we could look at and critique. We got to select the things we liked and we did not agree with in a particular viz. The second exercise was redoing things ourselves. It’s a good brain workout, spotting things that don’t really work and even better, redoing the same viz in a different way. It is Monday after all, so we’re keeping with the Makeover Monday theme. I really enjoyed this type of exercise and was surprised how well we managed to redo the visualisations, each viz in around 5 minutes. Here are a few things I’d like to single out from today’s work.

  • Chart Junk is a problem with many visualisations! There were unnecessary embellishments is many of the dashboards we saw. Chart junk includes things like gridlines, excess text (annotations, tooltips, subtitles, anywhere) frames, pictures, shapes etc… Beware anything in the view that doesn’t add to the story. If it brings nothing to the table – remove it!
  • Contiguity-Association by Position. This means things or objects that are near to each other are automatically seen as similar by the viewer. It’s particularly good to bear in mind when creating charts like scatterplots and using shapes in view.
  • Gestalt principles are a good read for deeper understanding about how the audience will pick up things in the view that stand out. As I understand it, the Gestalt Principles are in essence the same as pre-attentive attributes.

So far really enjoying the makeover work we’ve been doing. Looking forward to more such exercises. This is really good as we have already become very good in reading how good a viz is and what can be done better. This is fast progress considering we’ve started 2 weeks ago. Way to go team!