Published on October 15, 2008
User-Centered Information & Diagram Design How to Make Lasagna Instead of Spaghetti Noah P. N. Iliinsky InfoCamp Seattle September 27th and 28th, 2008
= = ? Spaghetti and Lasagna Diagrams (Linkbat, n. d.; UNL, n. d.; Vittlesvamp, n. d.)
A Simple Diagram (USNS Niagra Falls, n.d.)
• Why is more complexity diﬃcult? • there are a ﬁnite number of visual properties to use to encode knowledge • encoding more knowledge makes selecting properties more diﬃcult • Why are qualitative relationships diﬃcult to represent? • fewer conventions than with quantitative relationships • the author must convey metaphor as well as message
Intentional choices are superior to arbitrary choices. How do you make good, intentional choices? • Your Goals [Diﬀerent Goals Require Diﬀerent Methods] • Their Needs [Audience Brings Context With Them] • What to Include [Principle of Information Availability] • Where to Put It [Principle of Semantic Distance] • How Does it Look [Principle of Informative Changes]
The Diagram Design Process • Deﬁnition of goals and needs • Selection of content • Encoding and placement of content • axes • nodes • links
Your Goals [Diﬀerent Goals Require Diﬀerent Methods] •Inform / Educate •Broad overview? • Focused detail? • Persuade • Get a raise? • Protest war?
Diﬀerent goals require diﬀerent methods (Votemaster, 2008) (Werschkul, 2004)
Their Needs [Audience Brings Context With Them] = You Them
• Their Needs [Audience Brings Context With Them] • accounts for the needs of the diagram user • the design of the diagram must address its use • Understanding context is critical • facilitates learning and acceptance • applies to every phase of the diagram design process • includes inherent and learned contexts
What to Include [Principle of Information Availability] • only present necessary information • redundant encoding is good • more detail can be good or bad • extraneous decoration is usually bad
Redundant Encoding (Community Mesh, 2003)
No Redundant Encoding
Where to Put It [Principle of Semantic Distance] • people ascribe meaning to location • relative placement matters • absolute placement matters • lines & boxes join or divide groups A B
Axes give you information for free! (and it contributes in two diﬀerent ways)
Lack of axes gives you spaghetti!
Abstracted spatial relationships (Moscow Metro Map, n. d.)
How Does it Look [Principle of Informative Changes] • people will detect patterns, and ascribe meaning to patterns and pattern violations • Implications: Consistency! • establish patterns and stick with them • things that are the same should look the same • things that are diﬀerent should look diﬀerent • preserve order in placement and lists
Consistent, diﬀerentiable encodings
A diagram with arbitrary design choices
A diagram with intentional design choices
• too much information • no clear goal • arbitrary placement • doesn’t consider my needs • semi-consistent encoding (Poyser, n. d.)
Thank you! Full thesis available at ComplexDiagrams.com Please send thoughts, questions, or interesting data sets to gmail: iliinsky •Community Mesh. (2003). Community Mesh diagram. Retrieved February 7, 2005, from http://www.communitymesh.com/images/diagram.jpg •Horton, W. (1991). Illustrating Computer Documentation: the Art of Presenting Information Graphically on Paper and Online. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. •Kosslyn, S. M. (1994). Elements of Graph Design. New York: W. H. Freeman and Co. •Leiper, Q. (2003). ICEngineering Knowledge. Retrieved September 16, 2004, from http://www.ice.org.uk/downloads/EK_contribution_to_ICE Strategy.pdf •Linkbat. (n. d.). Entity Relationship Diagram. Retrieved November 18, 2004, from http://www.linux-tutorial.info /Linkbat/Development/ERD.png •McNamara, T. P. (1986). Mental representations of spatial relations. Cognitive Psychology, 18, 87-121. •Minard, C. J. (1861). Figurative chart of the successive losses of men of the French Army in the countryside of Russia. Retrieved February 8, 2005, from http:// www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/graphics/minard_lg.gif •Poyser, M. (n. d.). Wall Street Follies diagram. Retrieved February 22, 2005, from http://www.wallstreetfollies.com/diagrams.htm •UNL Lancaster. (n. d.). spaghetti.jpg. Retrieved March 16, 2006, from http://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/planning/programmes/BSc%20diagram.jpg •USNS Niagra Falls. (n. d.) ORG CHART.JPG. Retrieved January 13, 2006, from http://www.msc.navy.mil/niagarafalls/Life%20Onboard_ﬁles/ORG%20CHART.JPG •Vittlesvamp. (n. d.). lasagna.jpg. Retrieved March 16, 2006, from http://www.vittlesvamp.com/images/lasagna.jpg •Votemaster. (2008). Electoral Votes Cartogram. Retrieved September 27, 2008, from http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2008/Pres/Carto/Sep27-c.html •Votemaster. (2008). Electoral Votes Map. Retrieved September 27, 2008, from http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2008/Pres/Maps/Sep27.html •Werschkul, B. (2004). Election Results Graphic. Retrieved September 27, 2008, from http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/politics/2004_ELECTIONRESULTS_GRAPHIC/ index.html •Williams, T. R. (2000, August). Guidelines for Designing and Evaluating the Display of Information on the Web [Electronic Version]. Technical Communication, 47, 383-396. •Winn, W. D. & Holliday, W. G. (1982). Design Principles for Diagrams and Charts. In D. Jonassen (Ed.), The Technology of Text (pp. 277-299). Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technology Publications.
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