Data Visualization Linguistics / Interpreting & Visual Language / Tableau

Rearranging Furniture: Dashboard Design, Placement & Movement

“Did you really have to move that?”

It’s a common (and fair) question that applies both to my house and Tableau dashboards.  Some call it an itch, others a quest for efficiency, others just the ebbs and flow of the season.  I grew up with a window dresser.  Every season, the house changed, the decor matching whatever sale was occurring at the time, and stuff moving to accommodate it.  I’ve been known to (pre-Visio) graph rooms, furniture, and the like to figure out a number of different combinations.  It makes the people that live with me batty.  But, hey, I get everything to fit within the inch and it made logical sense.

Here’s why people get mad about rearranged furniture (at least this is my theory): they have to move differently.  When the kitchen table goes from being on one side of the kitchen to the other, people tend to run into it at night.  Or that new catch-all table by the door – SURPRISE!  It’s a great way for me to track midnight snacking and wandering.  Some people also don’t like change, but that’s a different story.  These people, if they’re wise, do not live with me.

Usually when I move things, there’s a reason.  Perhaps, it weather related (moving closer to the sun and windows in the summer, and closer to the heat in the winter) or managing around boots and coats.  Other times, it’s that our lifestyle changes.  We need certain things closer, like the coffee maker versus the tea pot.  Or, the reason people really love, it’s just time to change it up – like changing up the hair.

American Sign Language (ASL) also makes use of placement and movement.  As interpreters, we often discuss ‘set up’.  You see, ASL is smart – it uses space for pronouns.  So, you can set Mary on the left, Jose on the right, and Asha in the middle.  You can role shift between them for dialogue, or, if you want to be real sophisticated, use an eye gaze.  Maybe Asha is a child, Jose 6’3″, and Mary 5’2″.  You can show this through pronouns and it’s really neat to see.  Verbs can also be reflexive to the setups, so giving, telling, and loaning things all go from the actor to their respective subjects.  With these, you can just sign the verb (provided you’ve set this one up and not moved people on accident).  Anyone familiar with Arabic may recognize this as being similar to its root system.

What does all of this have to do with dashboard design?

People move through dashboards like they do a house.  There’s also a grammar about them, so when we muff it on the grammar, it’s evident and often very confusing.  If we say Mary is on the left, but use her height on the right, something doesn’t add up.  This is also true for dashboards.

To spare my family, I decided to rearrange a dashboard this time, not the house.  I decided to pick on the dashboard I always pick on because…that’s what you do!

Data Visualization Linguistics Tableau Dashboards Arrangements State Focus
Look familiar? It should! But wait??

It’s like a song you know, but something seems a little off.  And then you realize…it’s a remix!  I didn’t resize anything and I kept on all the original charts.  I did move the logo because having that mid-dashboard seems wrong.

I flipped the top and bottom of this.  Does it make sense to you?  It doesn’t drive me crazy, it puts a bit more emphasis on the state, but the bottom seems a little odd.  From an action standpoint, the map drives everything, so it’s not unreasonable to me from a user experience view, but something about it seems off.  I’m not sure if it’s having monthly sales at the bottom and something as detailed as the heatmap above, but I want to read left to right then down.

Data Visualization Linguistics Movement on Tableau Dashboard

End result: I’m on the fence, leaning closer to no.

Round 2:

Data Visualization Linguistics Tableau Dashboards Arrangements Minor Change

I moved the profit contribution and category back to their original spaces.  It creates a wall for those 2 to me, so it puts the waves (from the area chart) back on top.  I end up reading the map, heatmap and bar chart as one unit and the other 2 as their own thing.  So that solves the time-detail conflict to me.

Data Visualization Linguistics Movement on Tableau Dashboard Wall

End result: I’m less annoyed with this version, even though at a glance, it makes me less happy initially.  When in doubt, put the heat for it on the heat map…it works every time.

Last round!

Data Visualization Linguistics Tableau Dashboards Arrangements No Just No

Other than the cool way the profit drops into the map, I can’t get into the groove on this one.  If I click on the map, I have to look around – all around – to make heads or tails of this dashboard.  I was too lazy to move the legend, but I’m not sure starting off with that much granularity and moving to less makes sense to me either.

I also have something major – total sales & profit – in the worst place possible.  Information that’s likely very important is off sitting with all the stale popcorn.

Data Visualization Linguistics Movement on Tableau Dashboard Dizzy

End result:

I just don’t like this one,
No I don’t.
Red sock, blue sock,
No, I surely won’t!

Data Visualization Linguistics Tableau Dashboards Arrangements

Want to have fun?  Play swap-a-roo with your dashboards.  It’s easier than moving your couch, this I promise you!

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