No Crystal Xcelsius dashboard, sorry

This is the last post in a series where I examined the possibility of creating a Crystal Xcelsius dashboard using my Demographic Dashboard as a benchmark. I’ll discuss here my overall conclusions.

I must say from the start that I am very disappointed.

Let’s start by the data set and Xcelsius integration with Excel. I struggle everyday to squeeze more and […]

By |November 26th, 2007|Dashboards|2 Comments|

A line chart in Crystal Xcelsius: how difficult can it be?

Can Crystal Xcelsius replace Excel as a charting tool? As the regular readers know, I am creating an Xcelsius version of my Excel Demographic Dashboard to answer this simple question.

I am afraid the results until now are less than stellar. Although I could easily add four gauges with the four main demographic KPI, I am not really happy with […]

By |November 19th, 2007|Dashboards|7 Comments|

Stephen Few at InfoViz 2007

Stephen Few shares with us his capstone presentation that he delivered at InfoVis 2007. If you follow his newsletter or his blog (you should) there is nothing really new but, if you don’t, this is a good summary of his views regarding information visualization.

I’d like to comment a few points.
Knowing how to use Excel or some other software that […]

By |November 15th, 2007|Design|Comments Off on Stephen Few at InfoViz 2007|

Design principles for better charts: relevance

The relevance principle means that every variation should carry a meaning, derived from data variation, not from design variation. If it doesn’t, it can be confusing or misleading.

Suppose chart A displays population density by country. “Vary colors by point” is an option in Excel, but why should you use it? This is a design variation that confuses the reader […]

By |November 11th, 2007|Design|Comments Off on Design principles for better charts: relevance|

Are charts really useful for decision-making?

For many of us this is a provocative question. Haven’t Tufte, Few, Cleveland and many others proved that, beyond reasonable doubt? Isn’t there a prosperous industry based on the obvious usefulness of charts and information visualization? Is everyone wrong?

Let me play devil’s advocate here. A large majority of charts you’ll find in the corporate sector is irrelevant, if not […]

By |November 9th, 2007|Data|11 Comments|

Charting tips 004: You need guide lines

You can’t write a novel just because you can type. You can’t create a chart just because you know how to do it in Excel. First, you have to know the job, then the tool. Research for best practices in your field. Read what some authors have to say about specific formats and options. Then, build a framework and […]

By |November 5th, 2007|Design|1 Comment|

Design principles for better charts: simplicity

How to create better charts? Search the web and you’ll find many specific advices, not always backed up by scientific evidence (can there be any?). Tufte’s advices are great for us, rational, positivist members of the human race, but what about those emotional poor fellows for whom a minimalistic chart is just a boring chart?

Can we remove personal aesthetics […]

By |November 5th, 2007|Design|11 Comments|

Charting tips 003: Consider your audience

Scatterplots are not used by the NY Times because readers simply can’t make sense of them. Don’t oversimplify, but don’t assume that your audience can read a complex chart. Know your audience, and if possible test your charts with a small sample. Know what they expect, deliver that and perhaps a little more. When adding new charts, explain […]

By |November 4th, 2007|Design|4 Comments|

Charting tips 002: Consider the task at hand

Suppose you are sharing a list of orders with some co-workers. One of them wants to see the higher sales orders [list]. Another one wants to know how much was exported to France [table]. The next one needs the average items per order [descriptive statistics]. You want to see the growth trend for several products [chart]. Only one of […]

By |November 2nd, 2007|Design|8 Comments|

Charting tips 001: Do you really need a chart?

A chart is just one of the available tools to communicate and help you and your audience to understand the data; sometimes using a chart is just plain wrong: if variation seems random or non-existent, what’s the point of displaying the data graphically (yes, I know, sometimes that’s what you want to show)? So, take a […]

By |November 2nd, 2007|Context|Comments Off on Charting tips 001: Do you really need a chart?|