chartjunk – oracle helping reduce the urge to clutter

When Tufte defined ‘chartjunk’ back in 1983, he probably didn’t realize how easy computers and software would make it for people to add the “… graphic paraphernalia routinely added to every display that passes by: over-busy grid lines and excess ticks, redundant representations of the simplest data, the debris of computer plotting, and many of the devices generating design variation.”

Consider the above Hyperion Analyzer sales graphic, did you notice the important figures, or was your focus diverted by the colored circles and bright colors?

It’s very difficult to indeed see that the south and central regions aren’t performing as well as the east and west – although both still over budget.

Nor can you easily compare the colors on the maps for east in blue, with the chart for east in purple.

In fact if you measure the screen it seems that the actual data (and I’ll be generous here and include the map) is less than 40% (or 15% without).

While Hyperion and Oracle have previously been enablers in adding headers, panels and other junk it’s refreshing to see the latest version of OBIEE present a cleaner surface – which users can still mess up, but it’s more difficult 😉

Here’s a sample dashboard from OBIEE, notice how the headers and panes take up less room, enabling the designer to cram six sections onto the space. While it’s a step in the right direction, it’s still up to report designers and system architects to present data that is clear and enables the user to quickly see the important data and trends – so they can take action.

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