For week 50 we teamed up with Tableau Singapore to bring you a data visualization challenge looking at building accessibility in Singapore. The starting point was a map by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority and we received over 75 submissions with people working on improving the original viz.
It’s great to see the enthusiasm with which the community approaches these weekly challenges and this week was no exception. We’re delighted to see new participants join us from the Asia Pacific region and had a few dozen people watching our Viz Review webinar either live or on demand.
I genuinely enjoyed seeing so many maps being created this week, each of them unique and adding a part of the overall data story.
The last two Makeover Monday recaps were very comprehensive and covered a number of lessons, so please feel free to refer back to week 48 and week 49, because ALL of those lessons still apply and are relevant.
For week 50, I will focus on two major call-outs.
LESSON 1: DELIVER WHAT YOU PROMISED
Okay, that’s a strong sounding title, so don’t be scared away. What I’m referring to is to ensure there is a strong connection between your title and your viz.
What Andy and I notice quite often, also during Viz Review, is that a viz has a catchy title but the content then doesn’t deliver on the title. Either the title makes a claim that isn’t substantiated or it contains a question that isn’t actually answered in the viz.
We encourage people to use questions as titles to guide the audience and then use the viz to answer that questions very clearly. And that is the main part: you need to answer that question. If the data isn’t conclusive, say so. Give an explanation that relates back to your title and ‘close the loop’ so your audience is informed and gets the complete picture, including your analysis.
A nice example from this week is by Daniel Caroli who created an exploratory dashboard, encouraging interactivity by his audience to find out more about building accessibility.
He states this clearly below his title, using instructions for the viewer. He even added a parameter to drive the level of detail in his map.
After working my way through the filters and clicking on the areas I find interesting, I am left having gained new information, a better understanding of the topic and a good overview of Singapore’s building accessibility.
In line with the idea of delivering on what we promise in the title of a viz is the concept of being very specific with the descriptions and words we use. The more precise we can be, the better for our end users. Yes, there is creative freedom of course and you’re more than welcome to make use of it as you please. I would suggest though to consider very consciously what the first assumptions are your users are likely to make when they see your viz and read its title.
Before publishing it, ask yourself whether you have answered the question in your title and delivered on the claims you’ve made. Don’t leave them unsubstantiated as this weakens your position as an analyst.
We should aim to present each viz as a sample of our analytical and/or design work. (If that feels scary or overwhelming, try to go back to basics and focus on a narrow story in your data and aim to deliver a smaller scope supported with a well thought-through viz. No need to cover the entire dataset).
LESSON 2: TAKE INSPIRATION FROM THE TOPIC
Here I don’t mean inspiration to include pictures or icons, but rather let the topic guide your analysis and dashboard development. For me, this is about putting myself very consciously into someone else’s shoes. That can be difficult to do but can significantly help your design and analysis.
This week we looked at accessibility. The first question that comes to mind is: what does accessibility actually mean?
Well, accessibility is about the ease with which people who have temporary or permanent disabilities, impairments or limitations can access products, services, environments etc.
Based on that definition, what kind of viz do you want to create? We noticed quite a lot of dashboards that I would not classify as being accessible at all. Sure, that wasn’t a criterium, but it should still be a consideration because of the topic.
So next, we can ask ourselves who our audience might be: who is interested in information about accessible buildings in Singapore? Well, it’s probably elderly people, people with disabilities or temporary limitations (people with injuries or even pregnant women, or caretakers of people with disabilities).
Do we design our dashboard for them? We shouldn’t design just for the dataviz community, the people who are savvy about using interactive dashboards online.
Let’s push ourselves outside our comfort zone and change up the potential audience for our vizzes, it will help us broaden our skills and reach a broader user base.
For this week’s dataset and visualizations, my suggestion is to use a simple color palette, a clear font, to place information icons and instructions in very obvious places and to make charts simple, fairly large and to keep the story succinct, trying to reflect ‘accessibility’ in your viz.