Visualization Review: Tableau Viz of the Day

Arno Smit. https://unsplash.com/photos/fwtXC2sP7Tg

This article was written for academic purposes as part of a visualization crit assignment. The goal was to find a visualization of interest, post reasons of selection, critique and finally discuss changes that could have improved the visualization.

This is a visual that could be on a personal travel blog and depicts the details of hikes of an individual between 2014 to date, done by the author with his family. For any avid hiker, this could be a valuable resource if they live in or around Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont. From the top right corner map, we can see that most of the hikes are concentrated in the author’s home state Maine. The visualization adds narratives introducing the purpose of the visualization. The hikes are organized in icons from 2014 onwards. Hovering over the icon shows a popup that describes the hike, mountain name, state, elevation, number of hikers, trail name, and an optional diary note for the hike. Overall, the visual provides interactivity both from the map as well as via specific hikes icons.

https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/agata1619/viz/MountainHikes/Dashboard1
https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/agata1619/viz/MountainHikes/Dashboard1

Observations

At first glance we see a bunch of icons of mountains, which are easily explained by the legend.

  • A tree shows mountain elevation
  • Wavy lines indicate length of the trail
  • A leaf or a sun icon indicates the season of hike
  • Mountain name indicated at the bottom
  • Triangles indicating number of hikers.
  • Yellow border indicating the hike was taken more than once, while indicating hiked once.
  • Icon colors vary in green, light blue and olive green indicating states as ME, NH and VT.

What could be improved?

The visualization does not captivate the audience at the first look. It falls short for someone who wants to use this as a decision-making tool.

  • Color-blind friendliness: The visual definitely needs work here with green and olive green as close blends. Choice of colors could have be improved.
  • Filtering: Once I selected a certain hike, there was no option to reset the filters to “show all”.
  • Story details: The story failed to convey at a glance how many hikes did the author have in all since 2014. It would be nice to see this as a metric.
  • Icon specifics: Overall busy icons. It seemed that the author overlooked a few aspects of icon design. Without reading the legend, I first thought the wavy lines indicate water/lake bodies by the mountains. This was in fact the length of the trail and a different graphic representation would have been apt rather than wavy lines. The elevation of the mountains can be gauged in proportion but in quantitative terms is unclear. The mountains take up a lot of real estate but do not communicate any significant information.
  • Legend: It’s very possible that the reader forgets what a particular icon means and in that situation will have to come back to the legend. The back and forth scrolling does not lend to a easy to consume visualization.
  • Legend placement: Representing sun for summer and a leaf for Fall didn’t catch my eye until I read the legend. I think this is one visual, where the author could have placed the legend at the top of the graph before the audience scan through the list of icons and they go back to reinterpret what they just saw! I found it interesting not necessarily because it was the best but because of the concept it was intended. I realize that this visual outside of its intended audience (blog, family members, friends) may be confusing. I am curious how something like this can be created in Tableau, which is where I found it.
  • Audience & Intent: Based on the audience, probably simplicity was key here. I think the author intended to document the blogs and share with family & friends rather than have this visual as a decision-making tool for potential hikers. If I would have redesigned with the intent of making it effective for potential hikers, then adding a few filters around elevation, hike, season, etc. would be beneficial. It would have also helped to stay consistent with the commentary and share useful tips with the audience in terms of best time to hike, duration of hike along with recommendations from the author.

References

Tableau, Viz of the day section — Mountain Hikes

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Exec Director StratEx - I bring to the table blend of data science, finance and strategy management skills with 20+ years of experience in insurance & fintech.

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Poonam Rao

Poonam Rao

Exec Director StratEx - I bring to the table blend of data science, finance and strategy management skills with 20+ years of experience in insurance & fintech.

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