I have lost count of the number of times I have looked at charts on a website and said to myself, 'What, is it 1990s already?'. And incredible as it may sound, but even the most cutting edge corporates refuse to move beyond, what I call the dreaded Bar-Pie Syndrome. The web has evolved from the days of HTML-modesty and its time your charts did too.
So the next time you are looking for a way to visualize your data better, here are three very simple factors you should keep in mind.
1. Try to look for charts that don't have MS Excel written all over them. Readers will simply not pay attention to your data. And this is bad. You are probably better off displaying a table of data than boring charts that visitors overlook. I mean, really. Your data deserves better.
2. Make a conscious effort to set aside column/bar or pie charts when you start out, to see if there are other charts that can represent your data better or equally well. This does not mean you will throw bar/pie charts out of your purview. A couple of ideas:
If your work involves project management, look for Gantt Charts to represent the work modules on a timeline. Connect related tasks, put it up on your internal system so the entire team can see.
If you have a rating system on your website, how about retiring the almost retro 'stars' for nice sliding rating bars with an indicator the user can pull to a certain rating value. How about having ratings on several parameters, and the chart automatically calculates the overall average and displays it on a dashboard gauge?
3. Information today loses relevance in minutes. This is the age of real time data and your charts should reflect that urgency. Whenever you can, go for real time gauges that update automatically and provide the visitor/user data that is highly updated and relevant. Ideal scenarios for real time gauges:
If your work involves Stock market or Financial Data monitoring then you must use real time gauges. Choose catchy looking gauges to add that bling to your otherwise mundane data. It is the only way you can draw more attention to a data that you know hundreds of websites on the internet are displaying.
Real time gauges are invaluable for network monitoring applications. How about an animated speedometer in place of the bar chart for that bandwidth meter? Sounds good, right?
Process monitoring is another place where real time gauges are not only useful, but crucial.
If you are determined to break the stereotypes, you will. And I say, today is a good day to start. Get Flash Widgets. Now.