Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Most Useless QlikView Feature

Yup, even QlikView has one and for me its not a difficult choice....Animated Charts.

In the endless number production QlikView solutions I've seen over the last 8 years, I've never once seen an animated chart used and that speaks volumes, but before anyone gets all agitated, breath for a second and let me try and explain why I dislike them so much. Lets take the below simple bar chart as an example:



It shows us sales by sales person and anyone should be able to see that Bob is selling the most. Its also easy to deduce other information too. For example, all the other sales people have sold less than 2/3 of the sales that Bob has managed.

Now lets take this same chart and make it animate by Month as shown in this video:


Now it might look cool and I've seen many impressed people in QlikView pre-sales meetings but what we've done here is take a nice simple chart from which we could easily derive information, and turned it into something which is near impossible for our brains to consume. Its very difficult to watch the bars growing and shrinking at the same time as watching the animation bar to see what month we are currently viewing. For example you would find it difficult to see from this that Bob was doing pretty much the same as the others until his sales took off in June.

In essence what we've done is tried to mix a dimensional view of the data with a trend over time and that's simply too much to process from one chart. There are many better ways to display this data. For example, the below shows us all the same information using a bar chart of sales for each sales person trellised for each month.


This is better but still a little difficult to consume. Better would be to show the data as a line chart  of sales over time with a line for each sales person. This allows us to clearly see Bob's sales jump in June:


All this boils down to the fundamental problem I have with animated charts, that they only add confusion and don't add any value to the user. For me, a chart only adds value if it tells the user something useful about the data and can be understood nearly instantly. And whilst animate charts might look impressive at first, they are very hard for a user to derive information from and this makes them useless

9 comments:

  1. Yeah! Great post!
    i agree with you but its not a rule. I think depends on each case. If i want to see the growing process, the last graph can be better, but if i want to see just who is the best salesman, the bar chart should be used

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  2. I get your point, but animation in charts do serve a purpose. Take a look at Hans Roslings Gapminder-presentation, http://youtu.be/BPt8ElTQMIg. I've also met several clients lately where animations of data in maps where asked for.

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    Replies
    1. Vegar, i agree to you completely. This is what i meant too :) Bar chart with animation has no use. But scatter chart has.

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  3. AHHHH But did you know that Bob slacked off in February and March and lost his lead :-)

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  4. Matt,

    I cant completely agree to your comment. can your trellis chart gives me below visualization and insights ?


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo

    It has its own advantages. Cant neglect as such.

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  6. I think animated charts are great at showing totals over time, if you are presenting in person. Rather than throw up a static chart, it's much more interesting to see the totals grow as you provide commentary about product introductions, distribution issues, etc. I wouldn't say they are QV's best feature, but they have their uses.

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