Pettiross has been dreaming about information design and user
experience since he was a kid, spending hours sketching out interface
elements for games he would write on his TRS-80. Since then, he has
spent the last 25 years designing software and information
visualizations in diverse fields including data analysis and
visualization, healthcare, project management, desktop software, and
The presentation was about how to improve dashboards making them more informative and compelling. Jeff started by talking about new data sets. He talked about flow, or "being in the zone". Flow is important is important for creativity and learning new skills more quickly. Flow occurs when two factors are present: skill and challenge. When we used our skills and are appropriately challenged flow is created. When we create dashboards we create an experience for those who use the dashboard. Jeff discussed three practices to generate flow.
Unwrap your brain from the data
- build for your users first. Who is your audience? What makes people want to see this data? Different data leads to different dashboards, but it depends on the needs of the audience. Try to tell the story that your audience is looking to hear. Take the same data to get at completely different stories. How often is this data going to be looked at by someone? Once? Daily? Monthly? Put yourself in the shoes of the user.
Remove everything you can and nothing else
- describes how Twitter is successful in but 140 characters. Is it possible to remove too much information?
Show your work. Iterate relentlessly
- just as an apprentice does, they may have to show their work until they complete the task correctly. When you complete all of the facets, you can create great flow. Iterate, refine then polish. Iterate, refine then polish. Review and peer review is important. Seek and utilize feedback. Feedback can "polish a dull rock into a diamond".
Jeff went on to demonstrate the Tableau tool and how it can be managed to produce various data visualizations. Basically he illustrated that you can really make the data tell any story that you need. You can clean up the data to be as specific (or not) as you need to communicate.
Flow happens when we create just enough challenge and require just enough skill. We need to understand who is going to be using the data.
How do you make flow happen in minutes?
- Ask for what to remove - not for what is missing. Get feedback on what to remove.
- Challenge yourself to see what we can build in a short time.
Iterate with other people. Look to improve and remove visual color. There are various design principles that can be applied to ensure that your dashboard is appealing to your audience.