Putting Visual Data Analysis into Focus
Before leaving this chapter on charting, I want to address a key point that has been nagging at me ever since I started doing work with visual data analysis and dashboards. Many people who work on dashboard design are literally consumed with cramming as much as they can onto a single screen. They revel in the aesthetics of interface design and are quick to criticize a dashboard layout without offering alternatives or workarounds.
Understandably, it is very easy to get consumed with the visual interface and its aesthetics. One of the major premises of the dashboard is that an executive or a decision maker who uses it may have a limited opportunity to closely examine details, so the dashboard has to bring together all the information in one place. The information has to be easy to consume.
Focusing on the interface design without taking into account the mechanics, tasks, and practical challenges of building the visual interface is like coming up with a requirements document: It is a starting point but not a solution.
One of the alluring features of Xcelsius is that you can use it to harness a spreadsheet engine to intelligently and dynamically feed the dashboard visual display with appropriate information when and where it is needed. When information moves in such a fluid fashion, you can begin relaxing the all-consuming need to cram data onto a single screen. This, in turn, helps you sensibly design your dashboards and visualizations with greater simplicity and clarity.