For those of you who might be interested, we’re going to start adding our significance to the twitterverse through @JuiceAnalytics. If you’re already following us (@chrisgemignani, @zachgemignani, @khilburn, etc.) you can certainly keep doing that, but if you’re a Juice fan, we’d encourage you to follow us @JuiceAnalytics as well.
And to kick it all off, on Monday May 24th we’re going to begin with a series of tweets entitled “30 days to better visualizations.” Each day we’re going to direct our followers to an online resource that you can read, watch, play, or do something (each takes only about 5 minutes) that will help you hone your visualization skills. For these tweets, we’ll be using the hash tag #30Days2Viz.
A few weeks ago Juice asked our readers to give us a few insights into whether or not we and other info-viz sites are actually helping them and their organizations be more effective at communicating information.
Well, the time has come to take a look at the results (oooh – pins and needles). The survey was way more popular than we expected, receiving well over 500 responses.
We had a few questions that were of the form “select the answer that best describes you” but, for the most part, we focussed on text based answers so that we could try to avoid directing the answers and could demonstrate some non-traditional visualization styles to explore results. As a side note, the open ended answers to the text based questions were truly intriguing to read – hopefully the presentation of the results below will give you a small insight to what we learned.
So, here are the results.
The first section of questions dealt with getting some context about our readers. Since the questions were multiple choice, we’re showing the results in traditional bar chart format.
In terms of size, which of the following is your company most like?
A one man band
The Dirty Dozen
The University of Rhode Island
In terms of information presentation expertise, who do you see yourself as?
The Excel Chart Wizard incarnate (I’m happy with the quickest route)
Harold and the Purple Crayon (I’m pretty good, but not too finicky)
A Tufte clone (every chart is carefully and lovingly crafted with intention)
If your company were stuck on Gilligan’s Island, would you be able to use information presentation to get rescued?
No, Gilligan keeps using our Tufte books to prop up the break room table.
Maybe. The Skipper rigged up this island beacon system using coconuts, vines, and tiki torches.
You betcha! The Professor could build a huge island sized information display that could be seen, understood, and acted upon by the astronauts on the International Space Station.
What two information sources do you most frequently use for information presentation tips, trends, and best practices?
BI Vendor’s website (e.g., Business Objects, Tableau, Cognos, etc.)
The Dashboard Spy
Dashboards by Example
Jorge Camoes’ Charts
Tufte’s web Site
Visual Business Intelligence (Stephen Few’s site)
However, What we really want to know is what sites are most closely related. So we tried looking at them with a phrase net from ManyEyes:
This is a great way to demonstrate how sites are “connected”. We see a very strong relationship between Juice and the other non-Juice sites, but not a strong relationship between the non-Juice sites, themselves. In retrospect, the question would have been more effective had we asked respondents for their “top three or four” sites (approximately: total number of options Ã· 3).
The next group of questions were crafted to help us understand the problems our users and their organizations are encountering when it comes to presenting information to stakeholders and users. For most of these questions we broke the number one rule in surveys: stay away from text based answers.
Using one word for each, list three things that you most frequently find useful from these sources?
This was one of the most useful result sets and clearly shows that people like examples and new ideas for visualizations, followed by tips on how to get it done. (I’m hoping this post meets all of those criteria to some level.)
Within your organization, would you say the understanding of information visualization best practices is:
Staying the same
What one word describes the biggest barrier to improved information presentation at your company?
I selected a Wordle (as opposed to a tag cloud) for questions 7 and 8 because I wanted to see the results in a way that would give me the general feeling of the barriers and benefits – I wanted the answers to spur some sort of emotive response. I think a Wordle does this better than a tag cloud.
Finally, we’re going to post results on our blog for free download. However, if you want us to notify you when the report is ready, please provide your email address below. (And because we have a large international following, please add your country as well, if you don’t mind. Why? ’cuz we’re just curious. Thanks!)
So, we’re going to show only the countries here, no email addresses (whew!). Let’s start with looking at the standard distribution:
And here’s the geographic representation from Many Eyes:
But, having looked at that, I thought it might be a little more interesting to look at the country locations like this (text sized based on number of participants):
And that was all of the questions that were in the survey. However, I thought some of the multiple choice “context” question required just a bit more analysis; there were some questions I still had that weren’t yet answered. So, I loaded the data into Tableau’s Public version of their application to give a little more analysis flexibility. Here is the dashboard I created to better understand expertise:
A pretty nice linear correlation between company size and improvement trends, don’t you think?
You made it to the end!
This post turned out to be much longer than I wanted it to be, but hopefully you found it interesting and learned a few things about your fellow readers and how to display different kinds of survey responses. If you have other insights you think you see, please comment below! Thanks for participating!
Have you noticed that sometimes it’s hard to get your point across? Do you find you’re trying to do the right thing with your information, but the organization just won’t cooperate?
We think this is happening too often in the companies the Juice Community lives and works in. And we want to do something to change it.
We want to better understand if we’re helping you be more effective in your workplace as an information evangelist. To make this possible, we’d like to ask (yea, even beg) you to complete a short 10 question survey about how information presentation is making progress in your company and if you feel alone or supported by the info-viz pundits out there.
But you might ask “what’s in it for me?” Well, to begin with, we’re going to demonstrate how to summarize qualitative survey information. You’ll get some great examples of how to apply non-traditional charting styles to problems within your organization.
However, we can’t do it alone; we need you to complete the survey. And if we don’t get enough respondents, the results won’t lend themselves to what we have planned.
So what are you waiting for? Fill out the survey here and help us help you help us. And what does Gilligan’s Island have to do with information presentation? Well, you’ll just have to take the survey to find out!
Update: The survey is now officially closed. Thanks to all who responded. We’ll have the results out in a few days.
Seems like everyone’s trying to understand the future with respect to their customers. We see companies like Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook using predictive analytics to predict user user behavior. Even Stephen Few is giving predictive analytics air time, in classic Fewian cut-right-to-the-core style. So, when we recently had the opportunity to get some predictive analytics insights from one of the industry’s thought leaders, we just couldn’t pass it up.
Eric Siegel, Ph.D., is an expert in predictive analytics and data mining, and is the Conference Chair at the Predictive Analytics World 2010 conference. This is the premier predictive analytics conference and is the “business-focused event for predictive analytics professionals, managers and commercial practitioners.” We asked Eric some questions about the trends he’s seeing in this field and wanted to share them with our community.
(Also, don’t miss out on the Predictive Analytics World discount code at the end.)
Juice: BI visualization has certainly started to become more mainstream in the past few years. Where is predictive analytics on this maturation/adoption curve?
Eric: Predictive analytics has crossed the chasm and hit mainstream in many sectors, such as credit scoring for financial institutions, response modeling for large direct mail houses, fraud detection, and others. And it is mature in that most large and many mid-tier businesses have employed it in one way or another, if only in a first-stage fashion. All industry verticals are replete with success stories.
Juice: Would you say predictive analytics is used more for understanding or for action?
Eric: I’ve always had the impression that predictive analytics is employed with action more the central objective than understanding, although understanding is usually also enjoyed, at least as a “side effect.” A predictive model’s scores drive operational decisions for each customer – that’s the action for which it’s designed. But by taking a gander into the rules or patterns embedded in the predictive model, strategic insights are often also gained.
On the other hand, the results of the Predictive Analytics Survey put the two benefits as a near tie. This may be because, while fewer projects put insights ahead of action, those with action first also typically include insights as well (the pertinent survey question was a check-all-that-apply).
Juice: What are some of the best examples you’ve seen of predictive analytics applications that are designed for the “non-analysts”?
Eric: Well, there are two sorts of “action” that can be driven by predictive analytics: decision automation and decision support. In almost all cases of the latter, where staff “in the field” are provided additional information in order to make more informed their decisions – such as customer service agents providing cross-sell offers based in part on system recommendations, or consumer banking branch managers greeting their clients most at risk of churn – it is a non-analyst who “consumes” the predictive scores output by the analytics system.
Juice: How important is real-time to predictive analytics results and resulting actions?
Eric: This depends entirely on the application: what actions or decisions are being driven by predictive scores? So, no knowledge of analytics is required in order to answer this question. The good news is, when the predictive scores output by a predictive model are required in real-time – such as for selecting the optimal ad to serve to a user based on her profile and behavior – predictive models themselves operate quite quickly. They may involve sophisticated math, but they almost never have any iterative/repetitive “loops” in their programming, so they can turn a customer’s data into that customer’s predictive score very very quickly. It is the derivation of the predictive model in the first place, the application of predictive modeling over historical customer data, that may take hours or days, depending on the analytical method and analyst’s process employed; once you have the model, you are ready to fly.
Juice: How does scenario analysis fit into predictive analytics? What are some of the best practices around scenario analysis?
Eric: Predictive analytics generally works at a lower level than standard scenario analysis. It is doing such an analysis at the individual customer level, predicting the probability the customer will exhibit a certain behavior, such as a response, purchase, or defection. So, when considering a prospective predictive analytics initiative, its potential benefits could be put into a scenario analysis. For example, if predictive analytics is to be used to target a retention campaign, its target benefit of decreasing churn by, say, 10% more than current retention efforts could be plugged into a scenario analysis in order to calculate project ROI and gain further traction for the project.
Several weeks ago we published Part 1: Foundation of our Guide to Creating Dashboards People Love to Use, and a couple of weeks after that we released Part 2: Structure. Today, we’re making Part 3: Information Design available for download. In this part, we provide practical tips for putting information on the page in a way that communicates effectively to your audience.
If you’ve already registered, you will be receiving this volume automatically via email. However, if you’ve been waiting for “a better deal”, you’re in luck. Right now, you can download all three parts for FREE! That’s right, free. As in $0. And we’re waiving the shipping and handling charges as well. Just click here to register and get your copy today!
(For those of you who are paying attention, we didn’t actually charge for the first two parts either. They’ve always been free, but sometimes folks need to feel like they’re getting a good deal. If you really want to give and get free stuff, check out freecycle.org – through it’s “reuse” charter, it helps our environment by keeping good stuff out of the landfill.)
About two weeks ago we released the first part of our Guide to Creating Dashboards People Love to Use. We hope that you’ve already downloaded that document and have found it to be useful.
Today, we’re making Part 2: Structure available for download. If you’ve already registered, you will be receiving this second installment automatically via email. However, if you’ve been denying that little voice in your head telling you to “just click it”, now’s your chance. Register today and get both parts!
Of course, all registrants will get part 3 when we make it available in a few weeks. Happy reading!
It’s been a busy summer for us here at Juice with more and more companies asking us to help them take their data and create dashboard applications that help them get more done. While working on these accounts, we’ve seen an ever increasing interest and awareness in proper dashboarding techniques.
We believe that the best software is the software that people like love to use. Typically they “love it” because it helps them get their job done quicker and/or better. This can be for any of a number of reasons, but it’s great to see that buyers are becoming less satisfied with junky information applications.
So, we’ve decided to share the wealth. We’ve decided to compile many of the design tips we’ve harvested from our client projects over the years. These learnings are collected into a 3 part paper entitled A Guide to Creating Dashboards People Love to Use (catchy, isn’t it?). We’ve written this to help people who want to create information applications that break out of the horrible constraints of the industry-standards we’ve all seen and have been disappointed with.
We’ve made this paper available to folks who we’ve done business with or who have registered with us in the past, but we didn’t want our readers to be left out. If you didn’t receive an invitation to download the paper (maybe because you’re one of those lurkers out there -shame on you now’s your chance to be part of the “in crowd”. If you’re interested, register to download your own copy of Part 1: Foundation. For those who register, we’ll be mailing Parts 2 (Structure) and 3 (Information Design) over the next few weeks.
We think you’ll find it really useful and hope you’ll let us know how it helps you communicate your information more effectively.
“Often managers… rely heavily on data and information to tell the story and miss the opportunity to create context and meaning…leaving lots of room for interpretation, which can spawn multiple cycles and limit advancement.”
It’s the same with information presentation. A focus on design at the beginning expands the ability to deliver context and meaning. But before you discount design as a concept for well, you know, “those artsy types”, keep in mind, as Nancy puts it:
“Design is… crafting communications to answer audience needs in the most effective way.”
What this means is that the more you focus on design, the more you’ll “speak” to your audience – which means you’ll be more effective with your data presentation. It’s about the audience, not you.
Here are some dashboard design principles that we use (with a few enhancements from Nancy’s interview) to make sure we become better information presenters by thinking like designers:
Unity/Harmony – a sense that everything in the application belongs together, resulting in a “whole” that is greater than the sum of the parts. All the elements complement, augment, and enhance, as opposed to distract and detract from each other.
Takeaway: Identify the problem you’re solving and make sure every element you place moves you closer to answering that question.
Proximity/Hierarchy – Things that are near each other are related. Hierarchy demonstrates relationships between items where appropriate. Proximity and Hierarchy both provide tremendous contextual cues leading to better understanding.
Takeaway: Place related things near each other and separate unrelated things. Remember, dogs and cats don’t play well together.
Clear Space – White space in information display is very important and too often overlooked. Maximizing dashboard real estate means creating places for the eye to “rest” so that the non-white space is more effective.
Takeaway: Use white space in conjunction with proximity to help your viewers follow the story the information is telling.
Balance – Dominant focal points either give the viewer a sense of comfort (balanced) or spur them to action (unbalanced). Nancy points out “that does not mean all things must be in balance all the time. It is often effective to jar people and thereby effect a change in behavior or thought. Be aware, though, that once something has been thrown out of balance, it is the nature of the universe to find a new state of equilibrium.”
Takeaway: Make sure the primary focal points in your information presentation tell the viewer either “it’s ok, move on” or “you need to do something.”
Contrast – Contrast creates interest to focus attention or highlight differences. Again quoting from the article “The value of contrast lies neither in the black nor the white, but in the tension between them.”
Takeaway: Use Contrast to shift Balance so the viewer focusses and acts more quickly.
Takeaway: Increase the size and emphasis of the values and decrease the size of labels and you’ll find dramatically better impact and speed of understanding.
Simplicity – Stay focused on the specific fact on which you’re trying to shine light. This sometimes means showing less data and a simpler display. I think Garr Reynolds sums it up best: “Don’t confuse ’simplicity’, which is hard to achieve, with ’simplistic’, which is easy and usually lacking value.”
Takeaway: Help your viewers focus on what’s really important by pointing them to the kernels and not the chaff.
Over the past few years we’ve made the point that today’s BI vendors stop short of joining data to decision makers at the point of decision and action. We like to call this problem the “last mile”. As it turns out, Gartner does, too.
According to a recent article, Gartner analyst Kurt Schlegel states in the report “Overcoming the Gap Between Business Intelligence and Decision Support” that most companies still aren’t able to link BI to “the last mile” of making decisions that actually help their businesses.
Gartner joins a short list of other prominent voices (Tableau, SAS) in the BI community that have already come on board with Juice on this concept. We’re very glad to see others addressing the gap of making information really and truly useful for decision makers.
While we’re at it, that’s not the only theme that has seeped into the Gartner perspective: Gartner’s global BI manager Ian Bertram says the fundamental problem with BI isn’t about technology, it has to do with making BI work better for people. In other words, “BI isn’t a technical problem, it’s a social one”
So Gartner Folks, if you’re out there and following our blog, we’re excited to see you coming along side with us. And as long as you’re listening, here’s a few other ideas we’d love to see you consider as well:
As our followers know, for the past few years Juice has been creating software applications that solve customers’ real information visualization problems in purposeful, understandable, and beautiful ways. In doing this, we have found ourselves reusing quite a few components over and over again – which has made our jobs a lot easier. It occurred to us that others might like to benefit from using these components to achieve great results too.
We’re proud to announce the open source release of Juice Analytics’ JuiceKit™ SDK.
The JuiceKit™ is a toolkit built on Adobe’s Flex SDK to make it easier for web designers and software developers to build visually compelling Information Experiences™. It contains a wide variety of development components from individual data renderers such as a single “small multiple”, to a large visualization component such as a treemap or US Map, to fine grained “helpers” that provide handy capabilities such as copying data to the computer’s clipboard. These components can be used independently, within other applications, or assembled together to create full applications.
What can I do with it? (Show me the money)
Because we’ve been using the JuiceKit™ for quite a while, we have a number of customer proven applications based on the SDK that we thought you’d be interested in seeing.
Here is a screenshot of an application that we built to help our client see trends in their internet search and traffic activity. We used the JuiceKit™ to create the small multiples data visualization component of this application.
We’ve also frequently used JuiceKit™ to create dashboard prototypes. If you haven’t seen our recent application of our treemap component to the incomprehensible Federal Stimulus Plan, here is a nice example (click to explore):
And here is a very quick one we did for an IVR monitoring application where we assembled multiple different components together into one view:
Finally, we’ve used JuiceKit™ many times to build full enterprise applications such as this sales pipeline tracking dashboard:
How do I get it?
Now it’s time for you to have a go. Here’s how you do it:
Go to the JuiceKit™ SDK web page at juicekit.org and catch up on the current status of the project
Contribute back to the JuiceKit™ community to make the JuiceKit™ even better
While Juice continues to focus on designing and providing software solutions (as opposed to toolkits) for our clients, we believe offering the JuiceKit™ as open source will benefit the information visualization community we try to serve. In the future we will continue to extend the JuiceKit™ with other components and technologies.
Good luck, and make sure you share how you’re using the SDK so we can continue to drive it in the right direction not only for us, but for you as well.