We’re always aiming to enhance our core product MasterVision with both incremental changes and larger developments which might involve a more significant rework of existing functionality. In the latter category, a key area we are now focusing on is offering better analytics, to enable our clients to explore and visualise their data even more effectively. As part of this project we have found ourselves asking exactly what we mean by ‘better’, which has raised some interesting points:
There’s a tricky balance to be struck between offering users enough flexibility to create and customise the charts that they need versus offering a large range of options which risk causing confusion. It’s important to consider that different types of users will have different requirements – some will want to see ‘canned’ charts without making too many selections, whilst others will want to build from scratch with a specific visualisation in mind.
Related to the above, should the starting point always be a completely ‘blank sheet’, or is that sometimes too intimidating? The initial set of choices offered to users is significant here – our existing analysis options require a ‘dimension’ (like ‘Product Type’) to be selected first, whereas the new analytics will allow users to start with a ‘measure’ (such as ‘Subscriptions Value’) and then create a chart from there.
Our new analytics will have more of a ‘wow factor’ whilst remaining clear and simple enough to convey the meaning of the underlying data. Animation can be effective if used carefully, although the kind of 3D effects beloved of Election Night are more divisive – the jury is still out on these! As well as looking good on screen, it’s also important to remember that the charts must be printable and exportable for use in other contexts such as Powerpoints, spreadsheets and Word docs.
Creating good looking charts in itself isn’t enough – they also need to be interactive so that users can zoom in and drilldown to really explore the data behind them. As a simple example, it should always be possible to click on a year level graph to zoom in to view a monthly breakdown. In dashboard context, sections should be resizable and drag-and-droppable to allow flexible user configuration. Importantly, interactions like these should work equally well with ‘touch’ as well as mouse events to ensure that they are also iPad friendly.
When considering chart types it’s not all about bars, lines and pies! Maps are also a key part of the picture, with all of the same principles around interactivity applying (to enable drilldown from a World view to US States, for example). Venn diagrams will also continue to play a big part, as they provide such a clear way to visualize the overlap between different customer segments.
We’re already busy implementing these new improved analytics, and would welcome any feedback whilst we continue to consider these and other issues. Do get in touch with us if you have any views that you would like to share!