The pros and cons of long-form visualisations

Let’s make this perfectly clear from the start, my previous blog ‘Why I am anti long-form (also titled ‘my rant against long-form visualisations’)‘ was purposefully provocative. It was purposefully provocative because I wanted to gain a deeper understanding as to why long-form is now such a popular visualisation style.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not keen on them, but I am also not someone who will ever dismiss someone else’s view on anything, whether it be politics, sport or data viz. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

As Michael pointed out with his tweet, our visualisation choices should be designed and driven by the case in hand.

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I would also like to apologise to Michael Mixon (who’s tweet I quoted above) for whom’s visualisation featured in my blog under the title ‘FUgly’ (again clearly in jest). I actually think the story the visualisation tells is excellent, but I also think that the comments that lay beneath the ‘FUgly’ sub-header were fair criticisms to this visualisation style.

So after gathering the comments received from a number of people within the Data Viz community, I’ve created this post entitled ‘the pros  and cons of long-form visualisations’, which I intend to give a more balanced view on how and when long-form visualisations are best used.


Long-form visualisations lend themselves better to the way in which we are now used to consuming information.
With the advancement in mobile technology to the extent in which most people spend a significant amount of their time flicking through their phone, people are now more than used to consuming information via scrolling.

Indeed as my colleague from the Data School, Nisa Mara, pointed out, not everyone follows the ‘Z’ pattern of reading.

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Many people tweeted me stressing that the long-form visualisations are great in the art of storytelling.

They feel that long form visualisations offer a great alternative to Tableaus built in story points where they feel retention rates through an entire story are not as high as they would like. Essentially they feel that scrolling is a better navigating experience that flicking between a series of different views on different dashboards or story points. A fair point.

It is important to stress, as in the original article, there are clearly some negatives that come with the long form visualisation type that should be placed in consideration when choosing a dashboard type. Long-form visitations do remove the ability for users to quickly see an entire picture at once and allow stakeholders to make decisions at a glance and sometimes context can be lost if the visual hasn’t been created with care. The fact that you will sometimes see ‘part charts’ as you scroll through is not visually appealing (opinion of course, not fact) and can be distracting. Z style consumption is still massively popular as is ‘paging’, so it is important to gauge how your audience would prefer to consume their content.

All in all, as with most visualisation types, there are a series of positive and negatives that we must factor in when looking to see which ‘form type’ we should use, and what we are trying to visualise should be the driver of this decision.

Ben

 

 

 

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