Using Color to Group and Label in Charts

Jorge wrote in a recent post about loss aversion, the fact that “people strongly prefer avoiding losses than acquiring gains”.

Loss aversion […]: Translated to chart-making, it means that there is a “tendency to avoid losing data at any cost”. The chart below shows you the Money Income Of Households as published.

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Take the above chart, for instance: does it make any sense to add those nine series to a single chart?

Remove irrelevant data series and you risk a mutiny on the Bounty, even if relevant trends are easier to detect. It is absurd, but very human.

So, how can you give the users all the data they expect while keeping the chart clean and readable?

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Scott MacCloud Pesents Google Chrome

Scott MacCloud comic writer and expert in visual communication created a set of wonderful, information dense comic pages for Google’s new web browser Google Chrome. He presents on 38 pages the technical concepts behind Google Chrome so that even a layman can understand them.

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Regarding Google Chrome I found an interesting article over at the Cooper Journal, where Tim wrote that Google Chrome exists, contrary to the believe of the computer press, for one reason: To provide a framework for web-based applications to look, feel, and act like desktop applications. I can’t wait to see the end of the area of crippled web interfaces.

I really can recommend you to add Scott MacCloud’s excellent book Understanding Comics to you data visualization book shelf. A very inspiring book that explains the inner workings of comics and visual communication in general, and most of the insights apply for the design of visual interfaces, usability and data visualization:

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Smart Dashboard Ranking Tables

Chandoo and Robert over at the PHD blog have a nice a 4 post series of posts about Creating KPI Dashboards in Microsoft Excel.

I really recommend you to read Robert’s articles. Having scrolling in your sorted table is just a really smart addition to your Excel dashboard.

Yesterdays post was about Adding One Click Sort:

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Heatmap Tables with Excel

The following article shows how to create Heatmaps in Excel 2003, for Excel 2007 & 2010 please see the updated article “Heatmap Tables with Excel – Revisited

This Heatmap Table shows you the revenues and the discounts of a company over the course of one year per product group. The size of a bubble shows the revenue made in a particular month and the bubble color shows the discount rate given. The discount rate has been encoded as a range of green colors, ranging from a light green, for low discounts to a dark green for high discounts. The years and product totals are shown at the right and bottom as an integrated part of the table.

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Tufte often talks about the integration of number, images, and word, and I think he’s quite right. A way archive this in Excel is to integrate charts into tables, so called graphical tables, a very effective means to archive More Information Per Pixel. I already wrote about graphical tables here, here, and here.

 

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Interactive English League Bumps Chart

This bumps chart shows you the English Premier League 2007 – 2008. It allows you to highlight and compare two teams by clicking a team in in the table or a line in the bumps charts.

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Interactively highlighting a data series in a large data set is very powerful. All lines in the data set are set to light Gray to show you the big picture and the patterns and general tends in the data set. Once you have identified an interesting data series you click it and we highlight it with a bright, saturated color. This has the effect of bringing it into the foreground and allows the user to see the details in the context of the other data series.

As a bumps chart has the lines equally spaced on the value axis you can put an Excel table next to the chart that serves as a legend on one side, and as a detailed ranking table on the other side.

 

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Hyperlink Legends to Highlight a Series

So I picked up Jon’s idea and tried to combine it with ParamLink. In  The Missing Link I introduced the (free) ParamLink Add-In. It implements a new hyperlink formula ParamLink(). When the hyperlink is followed the formula can set cell values or define names.

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Excel Dashboard Competition: Bank Dashboard

This blog post is the first in a series of blog post that features the winners of the 2008 Excel dashboard competition.

“A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.”

Stephen Few, Information Dashboard Design (2006)

The dashboards were judged on the clarity and effectiveness of their design, particularly

  • Clean and clear organization
  • Effective table and chart design
  • A single-screen display, properly designed for the web, screen or print outs

Furthermore we honored the technical aspects of the dashboard, did it use effective (Excel) techniques for

  • The Dashboard layout
  • Data management, pulling data from a database or data warehouses
  • Data logic and calculation : YTD figures, variances, etc….
  • Dashboard delivery: Sharing the dashboard via PDF, the web or as an Excel Workbook

Today we will review the winning entry, Wades Stokes Bank Dashboard:

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The Dashboard Squint Test

Before we go and review the 2008 Excel Dashboard Competition Winners I have to make you familiar with  the Dashboard Squint Test.

Software usability experts and web designer use a quite effective way to assess the organization of a web page or a user interface, the so called Squint Test. You squint your eyes and make an assessment on the overall layout, of elements that stand out, the visual balance and other characteristics of an effective user interface.

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This test can be easily extended and applied to dashboards. Squint your eyes and assess the overall layout.

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Excel Dashboard and Visualization Boot Camp

Here the announcement of the Excel Dashboard Boot Camp hosted by the two experts Jon Peltier and Mike Alexander:

Microsoft MVPs Jon Peltier (Peltier Technical Services) and Mike Alexander (DataPig Technologies) are joining together to bring you our first annual Excel Dashboard and Visualization Boot Camp!

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Microsoft, Pimp Down My Ribbon

There has been a lot of criticism regarding Excel 2007, particularly about the new chart engine, the UI inconsistencies and the Ribbon. Jorge yesterday concluded that Excel 2007 is Useless and Jon wrote a comprehensive analysis about Changes to Charting in Excel 2007 where he expressed his concerns regarding the new Charting. In 2006 Stephen Few reviewed Excel 2007 charting and concluded Excel 2007 charting Preview of an Opportunity Missed. Charley Kyd did a survey about How Do Business Users Like the Ribbon and came back with the result that about 56% of all respondents had a negative opinion about the Ribbon

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