Data Design Resources

Intro

Data Design is the visualization of quantifiable information. Visualizing data helps people see trends, find outliers, and understand stories in the data that can't be conveyed with data tables. Charts are a visual way to anaylze information and make it easier to understand large amounts of data.

The following are some data design resources.

Pick a chart

Charts are tools and like any tool each chart type has certain strengths & weaknesses. Line charts are good at showing data over time, bar charts are good to comparing items in a group, etc. You want to choose the most appropriate chart type for the job – you want to use the chart that is the most appropriate for the data.

The following diagram, by Dr. Andrew Abela is a great guide to choosing the right chart.

That said though never EVER choose a pie chart. While human beings are good at comparing straight lines & 90° angles, we are not good at comparing curved lines & other angles. This makes pie charts incredibly problematic (despite being popular). Edward Tufte, the world's leading expert on data visualization, has written about the problems of pie charts and has said they should never be used.

Tufte is famous for saying that "... the only thing worse than one pie chart is lots of them."

Everything you want to do with a pie chart can be done (even better) using a stacked horizontal bar chart.

Chart types

Charting libraries

DAR Methodology

DAR stands for Dashboard, Analysis, and Reporting. The DAR Methodology is a helpful way to organize multi-page data projects (BI apps for example).

The idea is that you lead with a Dashboard page and as users go further into the experience they are given more and more granular information and controls.

The first page of an experience is the Dashboard which features summary level information. This page should be simple KPIs, little to no interactivity, status indicators, quick information that allows a user to understand what is new / different / happening / a problem / etc. Like the dashboard of a car, the dashboard page should give you the idea of what is going on but if you need any additional information or you need to address a problem you leave the dashboard and go somewhere else.

From the Dashboard a user can take a deeper dive into any number of Analysis pages. Analysis pages are comprised of more complex data visualizations, filters, more interactivity. The Analysis pages allow for a deeper investigation of the problem(s) you discovered on the Dashboard.

Finally, the deepest level of the experience is Reporting which are pages of data tables that offer the most granular details.


Learn more about the DAR methodology in this white paper.

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