Web/Tech

44 posts
The hidden bad assumption behind most dual-axis time-series charts

DC sent me the following chart over Twitter. It supposedly showcases one sector that has bucked the economic collapse, and has conversely been boosted by the stay-at-home orders around the world. At first glance, I was drawn to the yellow line and the axis title on the right side. I understood the line to depict the growth rate in traffic "vs a normal day". The trend is clear as day....

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Proportions and rates: we are no dupes

Reader Lucia G. sent me this chart, from Ars Technica's FAQ about the coronavirus: She notices something wrong with the axis. The designer took the advice not to make a dual axis, but didn't realize that the two metrics are not measured on the same scale even though both are expressed as percentages. The blue bars, labeled "cases", is a distribution of cases by age group. The sum of the...

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Too many colors on a chart is bad, but why?

The following chart is bad, but how so? The chart is annoying because of the misuse of colors. What is the purpose of the multiple colors used in this chart? It's not encoding any data. Colors are used here to differentiate one bar from its two neighbors. Or perhaps to make the chart more "appealing". The reason why the coloring scheme backfires is that readers may look for meaning in...

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The unspoken rules of visualization

My latest is at DataJournalism.com. It's an essay on the following observation: The efficiency and multidimensionality of the visual medium arise from a set of conventions and rules, which regularises the communications between producers of data visualisation and its consumers. These conventions and rules are often unspoken: it's the visual equivalent of saying ’it goes without saying’ . There are lots of little things visualization designers do in their sleep...

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Habit-busting designs don’t work

The design changes that most frustrate users are those that bust their habits. Case in point. Apple re-designed the bottom navigator of the iphone mail app. See what it looked like before and what it looks like today: Notice how the 2nd slot from the bottom right used to be for replying, and after the re-design, it has become the button for deleting. So when I intended to reply to...

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Light entertainment: people of color

What colors do the "average" person like the most and the least? The following chart found here (Scott Design) tells you favorite and least favorite colors by age groups: (This is one of a series of charts. A total of 10 colors is covered by the survey. The same color can appear in both favorites and least favorites since these are aggregate proportions. Almost 40% of the respondents are under...

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Does this chart tell the sordid tale of T1’s decline?

The Hustle has an interesting article on the demise of the T1 calculator, which is popular in business circles. The article uses this bar chart: From a Trifecta Checkup perspective, this is a Type DV chart. (See this guide to the Trifecta Checkup.) The chart addresses a nice question: is the T1 graphing calculator a victim of new technologies? The visual design is marred by the use of the calculator...

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The Periodic Table, a challenge in information organization

Reader Chris P. points me to this article about the design of the Periodic Table. I then learned that 2019 is the “International Year of the Periodic Table,” according to the United Nations. Here is the canonical design of the Periodic Table that science students are familiar with. (Source: Wikipedia.) The Periodic Table is an exercise of information organization and display. It's about adding structure to over 100 elements, so...

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The Economist on the Economist: must read now

A visual data journalist at the Economist takes a critical eye on charts published by the Economist (link). This is a must read! (Hat tip: Fernando) Here are some of my commentary on past Economist charts.

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Visualizing the 80/20 rule, with the bar-density plot

Through Twitter, Danny H. submitted the following chart that shows a tiny 0.3 percent of Youtube creators generate almost 40 percent of all viewing on the platform. He asks for ideas about how to present lop-sided data that follow the "80/20" rule. In the classic 80/20 rule, 20 percent of the units account for 80 percent of the data. The percentages vary, so long as the first number is small...

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