Every good discipline needs a missing link. Evolutionary biology had a missing link between humans and the ‘lower’ animals. Physics has a missing link between quantum mechanics and general relativity. The Information Visualization community discovered the Missing Link Between Information Visualization and Art.
Now we discovered the missing link in Excel Data Visualization.
As we can see in Wades winning Bank Dashboard we can greatly increase the amount of information that can be included in a dashboard by using sparklines in an overview table
Wades shows the shape of thousands of figures. This overview allows you to identify trends and patters. But as we learned from Ben Schneidermann, the great pioneer in Computer Visualization, this is not enough. Ben formulated the Information Seeking mantra for effective interactive computer visualization:
Overview first, zoom and filter, then details-on-demand.
The data dense overview in Excel causes a strong desire to have details of these small charts just one mouse click away, details-on-demand.
Stephen Few detailed this principle in his book Information Dashboard Design
Jon Peltier showed us in recent posts techniques to dynamically provide details in Excel in the form of a detail chart. The problem with these techniques is that you have to select the object you want to have detailed via combo boxes and list boxes.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get the details by following a hyperlink in Excel? A hyperlink is the natural way to effortlessly do the overview -detail navigation in the web. We follow a hyperlink to see more detail about an idea and use the back button to go back to an overview page. A post on Tufte’s forum shows that this is not an uncommon request:
Jack posted : […]I’m very excited about using sparklines at work [… Has anyone played around with making the sparkline a hyperlink to a larger graph? I have mixed feelings about this as the sparkline should function just fine on its own- but the possibility of making it a link to a more complex version of itself is also tempting. Thoughts? Forgive me if this has been covered- I did a search on “sparkline hyperlink” and found no relevant results…
So the missing link, the missing Excel feature, is the ability to have a hyperlink in an Excel cell that sets cell values or passes names when the hyperlink is followed. XLCubed introduced a new extended hyperlink formula that allows exactly this, passing the actual cell content as parameters to a target sheet.
Click on an in-cell sparklines (MicroCharts) to get the details for a specific KPI:
Follow the hyperlink of the variance cell to get the variance details for a specific KPI:
Don’t miss the next post! As this is such a useful thing for Excel Dashboards we have decided to give away a free version of the parameter hyperlink Add-In. In the follow up post, Antonio will give you the hyperlink bits and bites and show you some techniques how to use this new hyperlink formula in Excel.