First Blog Post…ever!

It’s taken me a while to get into blogging, and as someone who’s only real athletic talents are talking and typing, my recent motivation came from the availability of a .NINJA address. (Because who doesn’t want to be a ninja, even just a little bit?)

My work focuses mostly on data visualization, and I really enjoy talking with people about user interface design in more traditional analytics applications. Good user interface design really revolves around how you like to travel around a webpage with our eyes and mouse, and what prompts you to move from one place to the next.

In fact, our Kforce team was just talking with a client yesterday about good UX design, and since it’s something that a lot of people forget when they’re designing a dashboard, I wanted to share with you all some of the basic principles of good design, along with some great resources. (And I threw in a Game of Thrones dashboard to keep things fun!)

1.      Keep the end user in mind, and add context to the dashboard accordingly.

2.     Context means making it very clear what everything is and how it relates to your user…use big fonts for titles, and label your axes. If there’s a point or area of interest, annotate it, and include metric definitions somewhere that’s easy to access.

3.     Keep it simple. Humans can retain only three pieces of information at a time, so presenting what’s most important, and then guiding the transition to detailed answers, is important.

4.     A single dashboard does not need to answer all of the questions that a user might have: it just needs to guide them through the answers to this question, and you can use multiple dashboards or visualizations to do this–what you’re building is actually an analytics user experience, not just a dashboard. It’s your data set’s elevator speech.

5.     Consistency is very important, for three big reasons: consistently designed dashboards are easier for users to navigate, they’re less distracting, and they build trust. New analytics tools or applications require a lot of change management, and a big element of successful change management is gaining the trust of your end users.

6.     Design the size of your dashboard appropriately for it’s end use. If it’s going onto a PowerPoint slide, it shouldn’t be bigger than 900×550 px. And it shouldn’t ever auto-size, unless you think it will be used primarily on mobile devices. Less is more.

The Game of Thrones dashboard below is relatively simple–it shows the geographical and chronological distribution of Game of Thrones tweets (in Spanish) after episode air time. (This is a heavily filtered data set.) I’m a big fan of histograms (thanks, SigSigma!), and this one is pretty useful–we can see that half of the tweets were made within 32 hours of air time, and we can also see how usage patterns vary across the southeastern US and Latin America. (I’m not the only one who can’t stay up past ten on a Sunday night and watches it the next day!)

I do have a pretty awesome Story Points dashboard that tells the whole story of Season 4…definitely has some spoiler alerts 🙂

Check out this viz: