Survey Results: Are the Viz-Pundits Really Helping?

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.

Survey 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.

Question 1

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
  • Microsoft
Q1: Company Size
Question 2

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)
Q2: Expertise
Question 3

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.
Q3: Escape from Gilligan’s Island
Question 4

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
  • FlowingData
  • Infographic News
  • Information Aesthetics
  • Jorge Camoes’ Charts
  • Juice Analytics
  • Junk Charts
  • Tufte’s web Site
  • Visual Business Intelligence (Stephen Few’s site)
  • VizThink
  • Other
Q4: Popular Sites

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:

Q4: Phrasenet

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

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 ÷ 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.

Question 5

Using one word for each, list three things that you most frequently find useful from these sources?

Q5: Tag Cloud

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

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.)

Question 6

Within your organization, would you say the understanding of information visualization best practices is:

  • Staying the same
  • Improving
Q6: Improving?
Question 7

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.

Q7: Barriers

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

Question 8

What one word describes the biggest boon to improved information presentation at your company?

Q8: Benefits

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

While the "barriers" answers were interesting, there are some real nuggets hidden in these "benefits" results.

Question 9

Finish this sentence: "My company would be oh so much better at information presentation if we just had..."

What we really want to know is what are the patterns and relationships between words. Having said that, the most common words are still interesting to see:

Q9: What would be better?

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

But, we are really interested in the word patterns. So, we used the Juice search patterns tools Concentrate to identify patterns. The top patterns were

Pattern

Count

more X

76

more time X

30

better X

29

X data

15

X time

15

more time to X

14

time X

12

a better X

11

X data.

9

X more time

9

people X

8

more people X

7

more resources X

6

the right X

6

more people who X

5

people who X

5

time to X

5

more time and X

4

Now, if we look at how the "non-common" words relate visually, here’s what we get:

Q9: Phrasenet

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

Question 10

Finish this sentence: "If I were to advise someone on how to best improve your capability to create really useful information presentation solutions, I’d say don’t forget..."

Again, it’s interesting to see the most commonly used words:

Q10: How to improve

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

But the most value again comes from looking at the phrase net:

Q10: Phrasenet

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

Question 11

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:

Q11: Respondent Countries

And here’s the geographic representation from Many Eyes:

Q11: Many Eyes Map

( You can experiment with it yourself here. )

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):

Q11: Country Cloud

Additional Insights

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:

Characteristics of expertise
Characteristics of expertise

Powered by Tableau

What this shows is that organizations that are more capable of responding to tough information presentation challenges have a substantially higher ration of "Tufte Clones".

And this made me wonder how skills basis might be impacting different sizes of companies:

What companies are improving?
What companies are improving?

Powered by Tableau

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!