4 Replies Latest reply on Apr 27, 2018 7:58 AM by Gerardo Varela

    What Works what doesn't?

    Gerardo Varela

      So this recent thread that got me thinking:


      Monthly average followed by individual months on chart


      Here is what I came up with:




      In my head, it kind of works. Well, some aspects at least. The skewing of the trend makes things POP to me. 

      So does this make sense to anyone else ? What works? What doesn't? I'll be happy to hear all opinions. 




        • 1. Re: What Works what doesn't?



          Very cool range of visualizations!

          I'd never seen one like that in the bottom right corner. Very creative!

          I like the way that the one in top left corner gives easy

          comparison of progress over the years and also shows

          the spread for each month.

          • 2. Re: What Works what doesn't?
            Gerardo Varela

            Hi Swaroop,

                Thanks for the reply Swaroop!  Traditionally I would use the top left as my go to viz.  I consider that "Best Practice".  Followed by the bottom left.  The top right isn't what I would define as "Best Practice". I would venture to say it has too much noise for me to pick up anything useful without studying it for a bit. 


            The right side in general deviates from "Best Practice".  The bottom right is just something that I derived from the question asked.  Now should this be used in production?  I can see how trends change and to what degree very easily but I know what its suppose to represent.  So why is the bottom right not "Best Practice"?




            • 3. Re: What Works what doesn't?
              Michael Hesser

              Hi Gerardo;

              I'm a big fan of the left side (specifically left top), as well.


              I'd can see a couple of issues with the right side, but I think you need to ask yourself: who will be the end user for this viz? Will it be just myself? Or is this for other people to consume?


              If it's just you-- and it makes perfect sense to you-- then it may be just fine. It's a lot like my desk-- I have stuff all over, but the spatial layout is fine for me; I know what's where without a problem.


              If you're sharing with other people though, than I can add an observation or two about why-- in my opinion--  you would want to avoid this an not put it into production.


              #1 You're speaking a different language. Most viewers have been taught how to use X/Y graphs, and a tenet of this training is that the X/Y axes remain constant- (or are at least a constant function such as a logarithmic scale). You're turning things upside down by having an X axis that jumps from years to months-- and that will confuse people. This doesn't mean it's wrong-- it just means you'll need to spend more time coaching people how to read what they see, and THAT can be a drain.


              #2 Eye tracking. Your right-side graphs have an additional physical requirement: to best read the detail, the user needs to follow the line a-l-l the way to the end, then scan down to see what month a particular line falls in. This is made all the more laborious because your month colors do not seem to be in a progressive order and your color key is at the top of the graph. Yikes-- that's a lot of eye-tracking going on, and you might be making a user dizzy! Options:

              --Put your month colors in rainbow order (or use some kind of progressive schema) to help your user identify months intuitively.

              --Move the color key closer to the Month names.

              --Add drop lines if you can.

              --Put dots or vertical lines on the end of your lines?


              #3 Month numbers vs names. I'd recommend making sure your key matches your axes, just as I would recommend using month abbreviations rather than numbers (I haven't done a poll, but I think more people envision months as names, rather than numbers-- but that's just me). You could also include the month number with the name in your key,.


              I think there are a lot of questions that can be answered in your top left that can't easily be answered in your top right, such as "What were this year's sales trends over the March to July period?" Since you can't easy display this using the upper right, I think you could save space and reduce visual clutter by graphing sales by month/year: that gives you 12 colored lines x 4 years, with no need to repeat the month.


              Thanks for reading! --Michael

              • 4. Re: What Works what doesn't?
                Gerardo Varela

                Hi Michael,

                  Thanks for your reply Michael!  The end user is whoever has seen this thread! This is an open discussion of what does and doesn’t work.


                #1  I intentionally didn’t describe the change in X and Y axis but you still managed to deduce that there was a change.  So this goes back to your initial question, “Who is the end user”. To be fair, knowing your audience and speaking there language is essential to all aspects of life.   I work at a small shop so I’m also help desk for all things that get plug into the wall. I’ll give you a recent conversation as an example.


                Our CFO had an e-mail bounce back.   She called me over to take a look.  I told her the server couldn’t find the recipient, for whatever reason, and it stopped trying to deliver the message. She asked “but why”.  I asked her, if you go visit someone and knock on their door. If they don’t answer, how long do you stay there knocking?  I didn’t have to say anymore.  She got it.


                I totally agree that it isn’t the norm and if used would need to be pointed out. With either with some visual cues or some verbiage stating “look here there is change in the axis”. We can circle around and say “well if you have to pointed it out then don’t do it”


                #2  Eye tracking!  That’s what I knew didn’t work but I couldn’t but it in a phrase!  I called it noise earlier in my last comment.  You’re absolutely right there is too much of it. It’s especially blatant on the top left but looking at the bottom right you’ve hit the nail on the head. Thanks! When I get some time I’ll add your suggestions to the viz. 


                #3  I didn’t even think about months number vs names.  If you do ever get around to doing a poll, even if it’s just your office, I’d be highly interested in the results.  I asked three colleagues while grabbing my Friday donut what they preferred.   One said words, another said I don’t care I can do both, and third told me it’s too early for me to think about stuff like that.  I need a better sample size.