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davidh56

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Reply with quote  #1 
In "Show Me the Numbers" the recommended advice to is to have the labels on the left side. However, some groups at my company have started to display the labels in the middle of the page for tables that compare current period and year-to-numbers, such as: current period actual, current period budget, current period variance, descriptive label, year-to-date actual, year-to-date budget, year-to-date variance. Is there any research or evidence that would indicate which method is better? It seems that having the labels on the left is the traditional method, but I can see some merit to breaking up the info by placing the labels in the middle of the page.

Thanks,

David

sfew

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Reply with quote  #2 
David,

Can you post an example?


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Stephen Few
davidh56

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Reply with quote  #3 
Here's a snapshot of one page of the report as it's generated from our reporting system. This page is for administrative expenses; the entire report is about 10 pages, with pages for sales, cost of sales, operating expenses, administrative expenses, and several others. Excuse the colors; the final report will be in black and white, so the color blocks will be removed.

My question is about how the "entity" descriptions (these are production facilities) work in the middle of the page instead of on the left side. Perhaps descriptions in the center work in the context because they serve to separate two distinct blocks (current month and year-to-date). Of course white space could also provide the separation.

In general, I struggle with is table vs. graph  when presenting variances from target information. A table easily captures both the absolute and percent deviation and I'm have trouble finding a graphic display that does both; the examples in the Dashboard Design for Rich and Rapid Monitoring article seem to focus mostly on percent of target.



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sfew

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Reply with quote  #4 
David,

The placement of labels in the leftmost columns is not a hard and fast rule – reasonable exceptions exist – but it usually works best. We usually locate the information that were looking for in a table by search for a label that identifies it. Placing labels in the left column, at the beginning of each row, makes it easy to scan for a particular label and then move our eyes in a single direction to the right across the row to read associated data. In your example, because the column of labels is left-aligned and adequately separated with white space from the adjacent columns, I can easily scan the column for a particular label, but having found it I must then back track to the left to find the beginning of the row and then scan to the right to read particular data, skipping the labels in the process, which I’ve already read. Unless people use this table in a manner that I don ‘t understand, placing the labels on the left would improve efficiency.

As an aside, this table could be cleaned up in ways that would also improve it. The dark vertical borders are creating visual breakpoints in each row that hinder efficient scanning and the bright green fill colors are a heavy handed way to distinguish the column headers from the body of the table, drawing more attention to themselves than is needed.

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Stephen Few
davidh56

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Reply with quote  #5 
Stephen,

Thanks for the feedback. I modified the report as you suggested and the result is much better.

Thanks again,

David

DataInAction

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Reply with quote  #6 
One other thing I noticed was that you highlighted in red and used ( ) around the $ data that was negative.  For consistency sake would it also make sense to highlight in red any % that is negative?  

As I look at it further though I'm thinking that unless you want your readers to really focus on the negative/worse data points in an "alert" sort of way, you may want to consider not using red at all.  


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