Bar charts, pie charts, Speedometer gauges, Traffic Light gauges – These are some of the visualization objects that come to the mind when one think’s of designing a Dashboard to show KPIs. Some are used for their grandeur and others simply because they show the data very clearly.
Now, let’s take a step back and rethink on what is the main purpose of Visualization objects within the Dashboard. When there is a large amount of data, it becomes difficult to scan through it in the form of a table and recognize a pattern or select that data which is useful to make sense of situation. This is when visualization objects help the user understand the data clearly in a quick and easy way and enable recognition of the underlying patterns by giving out the big picture and pointing precisely to deviations, outliers and connections.. So, if we take some of the charts that we frequently use in our dashboards and analyze them for their intuitiveness, the answer might not always be positive.
Some visualization objects that have proven to be intuitive in showing the data clearly are sometimes embellished with ornate presentation techniques that compromise the ability of the data visualization to focus on the data itself, while other visualization objects commonly used are not intuitive at all in the first place.
The Speedometer Gauge is a classic example of a visualization object that is used very frequently in Dashboards, the use of which can be arguable. The speedometer Gauge is drawn as a metaphor in the BI industry from the dashboard of a car. In the dashboard of the car, the speedometer does absolute justice in showing the current state. The driver is only required to know the current situation at any given time. Thus, the speedometer solves the main purpose. In a Business Dashboard however, the user more than often times needs to know a whole lot of other things which support the current state like historical trends and other things for purpose of comparison. In which case, the speedometer gauge, which can show only one data point, fails to show the complete picture.
On the other hand, the most simple and extremely popular objects like bar charts and pie charts display the data in a highly intuitive way. They are easy to understand and can inform the user about the patterns and trends. However, if these intuitive charts are not presented well, they can hamper the user’s ability to quickly grasp information and sometimes even mislead the user.
As QlikView application Designers, we are always thinking of ways in which we can represent the data in the most simple and intuitive form for our users. As a result we sought to various resources for references and ideas and often times we come across snazzy looking displays, but it might be of great help to take a step back and analyze whether the representation of the data that we put across is easily understandable by the user or not.
A detailed description with examples of this excerpt can be found in the technical brief here.