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Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #1 
Just read your book and very much liked most of your statements. In particular, I share with you the philosophy of keeping things simple and to strictly avoid arbitrary design decisions.

However, with a few of your principles I disagree, especially those that - in a quite dogmatic way - abandon visual elements that might not add any "value" to a dashboard. I think what's "valueable" is pretty discussable in general and should be communicated as such. E.g. I personally prefer adding properly muted) grid lines to all my charts - though they are indeed not obligatory to effectively communicate data in most cases, I prefer using them as they make it easier and more relaxing to associate a data point e.g. in a line chart with a corresponding accurate value - especially if the data
point is far away from the chart's axes. It is hard to tell if users really never need to know a more accurate value to a chart's data point so I add grid lines as a common means not as an exception.

But this is just an example. What I'd like to state is that variety in design and very few times breaking out of principles - if applied with care and supported by proper user testing - does *not* necessarily undermine the good design of a dashboard (or GUIs in general). In case you share the same opinion, this is a message I would have liked to come through more clearly in your argumentation. In case not, I would
have liked to read a more detailed reasoning.

Thomas Immich

Posts: 802
Reply with quote  #2 

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Regarding those principles about which we perhaps disagree, it isn't obvious that we do. I agree that what's valuable in a visual information display isn't always black and white. Anything that supports the intended communication is valuable. For instance, I include light grid lines on graphs when they're useful, but I don't as a default because the primary purpose of graphs, especially on dashboards, is not the presentation of precise values. Including grid lines in a graph, except in those rare cases when a little extra precision is necessary, leads people to read them as they read tables (that is, one precise value at a time), instead of focusing on patterns, trends, exceptions, and approximate comparisons. There are times when I bend the rules that teach, but never arbitrarily; only when doing so produces a better result due to unusual circumstances.

When teaching visual communication principles to people who are not trained visual communicators, I believe that it works best to introduce simple and clear principles, without complicating the lesson with occasional exceptions to the rules. If I were writing a book for people with your training, I would approach the material differently.

Stephen Few
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