7 Using New Tools

Every day there are new tools available for creating stunning data graphics and options for adding endless customizations. While research is lacking on how some of these new options impact data comprehension, there is reason to believe that they can be of benefit. Let’s say that we want to compare the turnover rates of each office location across the country. By combining the key takeaways above we know that we could display the turnover rate for each office on a dot plot, descending by turnover rate, with unnecessary elements like gridlines removed; as shown in Figure 12. However, this requires additional cognitive strain for the viewer as they try to think about where each city is located and whether there are regional trends. This is where it helps to use newer tools.

Figure 13 displays the same turnover rate data as Figure 12. However, now the information is mapped and grouped by region with the mean turnover rate for the region displayed. By zooming in and out of the map, mean turnover rates adjust based on the geographic region until the viewer zooms in far enough for individual offices and turnover rates to be displayed. This interactivity allows the viewer to investigate whether trends exist over large regions or whether they are isolated. This map follows the key takeaways above through its first layer of simplicity but offers a second layer of additional information once the initial trends are mentally processed. The eyes are immediately drawn to the orange marker, indicating a high (14%) mean turnover rate across offices in the Midwest region. Once zoomed in far enough, single data points can be clicked on and additional information regarding the location will appear in a pop-up text box.

Figure 13. Turnover Rate by Branch: Branches in the Midwest Region are Experiencing High Turnover

Again, research is lacking on the role that interactivity plays in the accuracy and speed of data comprehension. However, as long as the same principles are followed with any interactive elements as on the graphic itself (i.e. keep interactive elements as simple as possible), then they should offer a net benefit to the visualization.

Key Takeaway #4: Interactive elements of a visualization should increase the speed and accuracy of data comprehension, not add complexity.