are probably the most effective way to convey information, insights and
prompts for action to humans. We are not terribly good at quickly and
correctly interpreting textual information that require sequential
processing. Our brains however are very well equipped to rapidly
interpret information presented in a well defined visualization. The
expression ‘one picture says more than a thousand words’ is one that
speaks volumes (and a picture capturing that expression would of course
tell us even more…).
Visualizations were omnipresent at last
week’s Oracle OpenWorld 2015 conference. From keynote sessions by Larry
Ellison and Thomas Kurian to the demo grounds where SaaS applications as
well as development tools, PaaS services and other products were
demonstrated, visualizations were everywhere. In part because they look
nice and have an immediate appeal. But far more than just eye candy,
visualizations are truly very effective in many use cases – especially
when rapid responses to real time findings are required or where
decisions need to be made based on deep insight in trends, patterns,
correlations and underlying causes.
Glance, Scan, Commit
the heart of Oracle’s strategic design philosophy for [cloud]user
experience is the ‘glance, scan, commit’ way of working we humans tend
to adopt. We scan our surroundings for things that stand out in
some way and therefore may require more attention. The things that
attracted attention on our first scan are then glanced at – to
better understand what makes them stand out, quickly interpret if action
is indeed required (such as more in depth investigations, decisions or
execution of a workflow or business process). Some things can perhaps be
done on the fly (accept/reject, send left or right, acknowledge) and
are immediately removed from the to-do list. For others we may determine
that nothing further needs to be done. Then there are more involved
tasks that are the end result of the scan and glance stages. These tasks
form a to do list of things that we need to work on – commit ourselves to – either instantaneously or at a later moment. (see Strategic design philosophy pushes Oracle cloud user experience to lofty new heights by Kathy Miedema for more details on this philosophy).
Scan and Commit are implemented throughout Oracle’s SaaS applications.
Users typically start from an initial dashboard that provides them the
information they need to perform the Glance. This is typically
information that is the outcome of aggregations and advanced data
analysis – resulting in condensed reports of those facts that the user
needs to be aware of, needs to react to or decide upon. This information
should be presented in such as way that the ‘cost of understanding is
minimized’ – as Jairam Ramanathan, Senior Development Manager for Data
Visualizations at Oracle Cloud and Mobility Development Tools puts it.
this means that the presentation shows a recent change or trend, a
comparison with a threshold, deadline or other target or a list of
action items. Data Visualizations are used to present these elements in a
way that makes them easy to interpret quickly and correctly. Compared
with a purely textual representation, most visualizations can easily add
context – such as time or location – and categorizations or grouping.
Visualizations can leverage special traits of our human minds. These
include our ability to quickly interpret, compare and spot differences
in position, shape and size, color (to some extent) and extract a story
from animation. Our brain’s associative powers quickly come into play
Jeremy Ashley, GVP Cloud Applications UX at
Oracle and responsible for the Glance, Scan, Commit philosophy, stresses
that visualizations may not be too simplistic, or our brain simply
zooms out. A visualization needs to hold a certain challenge in order to
pique our curiosity.
Visualizations not only cater for the glance phase, they can usually also play an important role in the scan
phase. Visualizations can allow drill down, to analyze a little further
and look in more details into specific areas of interest indicated
during glance. Additionally, visualizations may go beyond just
presenting the data and also support simple manipulation of data – for
example adjusting a gauge or dragging elements on a time line or even a
bubble chart. Read the complete article here.
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