Dashboard Vision https://dashboardvision.com Thu, 07 Nov 2019 14:56:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.1 https://dashboardvision.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/favicon-150x150.png Dashboard Vision https://dashboardvision.com 32 32 “The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handles” https://dashboardvision.com/the-pump-dont-work-cause-the-vandals-took-the-handles-2/ https://dashboardvision.com/the-pump-dont-work-cause-the-vandals-took-the-handles-2/#respond Thu, 07 Nov 2019 14:56:04 +0000 https://dashboardvision.com/?p=1173 The post “The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handles” appeared first on Dashboard Vision.

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One of my all-time favorite Bob Dylan quotes applies to this story because I’m talking about pumps and why they are not working or, better said, why their design isn’t.

So, look at these 2 lotion bottles. The one on the left is advertised as having a “smart pump” and I purchased it to replace the one on the right – without the ordinary pump, not the smart one. Can you see the fault in the smart pump’s design yet? I couldn’t when I bought it. I realized what the issue was once when I attempted to use it.

I went to push the pump and the lotion shot out the other direction – all over the floor! It was at this point that I realized the “smart pump” wasn’t exactly so smart.

I’ve started to think more about this issue because I was reading Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things at the time. When this little incident happened, I understood immediately this is exactly what he meant by “Designers need to focus their attention on the cases where things go wrong, not just on when things work as planned.”

The book talks about how we need to figure out how to use the product first – that makes sense. This is discovery. We can discover how a product works if the designer applied these psychological concepts correctly: affordances, signifiers, constraints, mappings and feedback. Firstly, we need to be able to see what actions are possible (discoverability) and yes, the lotion bottle clearly shows that you can push the top to get the lotion out.

The pump is the affordance – you can see it is elevated and because you’ve used a pump before you know if you push down, it will allow you to get the lotion out. The signifier tells you how. Can you see the problem now? There is no signifier telling me which end of the spout the lotion comes out – both ends are designed the same shape! Crazy, huh?  The original, “ordinary” pump clearly has the correct signifier. The shape of the spout narrows where the lotion comes out – genius!

So why spend the effort and cost on a “smart pump” at all when the old one worked perfectly well? I think what they were trying to do is make it easier to lock the pump, so that lotion wouldn’t be dispensed inadvertently. OK, I get it. Now, I can turn the pump top and then it’s locked. I don’t have to push the pump top down and twist to lock which results in lotion coming out that I don’t necessarily want.

So, while fixing one problem, they created another. I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the design process either consumer tests didn’t happen, or they failed to uncover the loss of this important signifier. Unilever, who owns Vaseline, any comment? Just curious.

At Dashboard Vision, we are talking to our users in all the product development stages, in order to avoid situations like this.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this and have learned something about affordances and signifiers. I whole-heartedly recommend Don Norman’s book.

Anyone else have a funny design story to tell? Please share.
Follow Marya Kaska on LinkedIn.

 

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Donuts and Funnel Charts…to Display Data? https://dashboardvision.com/donuts-and-funnel-chartsto-display-data/ https://dashboardvision.com/donuts-and-funnel-chartsto-display-data/#respond Sat, 16 Mar 2019 21:33:06 +0000 https://dashboardvision.com/?p=716 The post Donuts and Funnel Charts…to Display Data? appeared first on Dashboard Vision.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love donuts, the sugary kind.  But when a donut shape is used to display information, I’m not a big fan as it’s often just too darn hard to read. 

Take the new social network visual below by Zoom Charts.  When you click on the face, a donut graph displays social network usage stats in the hover over.   You can even drill down on any of the donut parts creating another donut outside of the first one.

I love the designer’s creativity with this, but what I would like to see is for the designer to use his or her creative talents in combination with the fundamentals of graph design to produce something that is the best of both worlds. Good graph design makes use of our ability to perceive certain attributes of visual images pre-attentively. That is prior to us being aware of them. An example of one of these attributes is form such as length. We can easily (pre-attentively) dicern the differences between the lengths of the bars below much easier than the curved shapes of the donut sections above. Could we not for example replace the donut with a bar chart enclosed in a circle? This would retain the circle which appeals to the user but add the bar so it’s easier to interpret the data.
Along with the donut chart, another popular way to display concepts and data is the funnel chart. Below left is an example of a sales funnel chart. While the sales process may represent a funnel shape, the user cannot easily gauge the numeric differences between the areas of trapezoids and rectangles, especially as you go down into the neck of the funnel. If our brain cannot easily use the visual chosen to quickly compare the numbers – why show it? In this case, consider how much easier it is to interpret descending data points using the green bars on the right instead of using a funnel chart.

Tell me what you think – have you found a way to enhance donut and funnel charts to make them more effective in displaying data?

Also, feel free to send me a chart that you’re grappling with and I’d be happy to provide you with input on how to improve it. Just email me at mk@dashboardvision.com.

Marya Kaska

Marya Kaska is the co-founder of Dashboard Vision. The company provides full-service online data product design services including data visualization, dashboards and SaaS product development.

Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Email: mk@dashboardvision.com.

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Do your visuals pass the pre-attentive test? https://dashboardvision.com/do-your-visuals-pass-the-pre-attentive-test/ https://dashboardvision.com/do-your-visuals-pass-the-pre-attentive-test/#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 20:54:34 +0000 https://dashboardvision.com/?p=693 The post Do your visuals pass the pre-attentive test? appeared first on Dashboard Vision.

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“Effective information visualization is built on an understanding of how we see and think.”

– Stephen Few
Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis

My last blog mentioned creating graphs that facilitate our ability to grasp information pre-attentively. In other words, the understanding of information prior to being aware of it. This is what the quote above by Stephen Few is referring to. In this post, I’ll provide a few examples of what this means. 

Many people say “I’m a visual person.” This isn’t surprising since of our five senses, vision dominates our perception of the world. Vision researchers have known for many years that certain visual attributes such as hue, length, width and motion are detected quickly by our low level visual system without us even thinking about it. The fact that you can see the red dot immediately in the picture on the left (an example of hue) is a case in point of this pre-attentive ability.

Now notice when you try to show the red circle with distractions of other colours and shapes? Hard to see it? I would agree.

This simple example shows why it’s critical to make your visuals easy to read. Anyone forced to spend extra time looking closely at the visual nuances of graphs to understand the point of the author will quickly lose patience and end up being frustrated. Not exactly what you want a customer or prospect to feel.
Let’s take a look at an example of a graph which does not capitalize on our pre-attentive abilities on the left and one that does on the right. This spider or radar graph is meant to describe progress of a particular bank on managing its ID fraud. Can you tell if there is a difference between Prevention and Investigation? I can’t without zooming in to count the gridlines or using the scale numbers. Clearly the bar chart on the right is the way to go. It easily shows the status of the different stages.

Adapted from Storytellingwithdata.com

The spider graph may look fancier or different from the common bar chart and you may be tempted to use it to break up the monotony of your presentation. But if you have a compelling story, your data clearly represented in the bar chart will sell itself.

Do you have questions or other examples that you can provide on graphs or charts that create pre-attentive awareness? Please share. And as always, feel free to send me a chart that you’re struggling with and I’d be happy to provide you with input on how to improve it. Just email me at mk@dashboardvision.com.

Marya Kaska

Marya Kaska is the co-founder of Dashboard Vision. The company provides full-service online data product design services including data visualization, dashboards and SaaS product development.

Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Email: mk@dashboardvision.com.

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