Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Analytics magazines: Please lead the way for effective data presentation

Professional "analytics" associations such INFORMS, the American Statistical Association, and the Royal Statistical Society, have been launching new magazines intended for broader, non-academic audiences that are involved or interested in data analytics. Several of these magazines are aesthetically beautiful with plenty of interesting articles about applications of data analysis and their impact on daily life, society, and more. Significance magazine and Analytics magazine are two examples.

The next step is for these magazines to implement what we preach regarding data presentation: use effective visualizations. In particular, the online versions can include interactive dashboards! If the New York Times and Washington Post can have interactive dashboards on their websites, so can magazines of statistics and operations research societies.

For example, the OR/MS Today magazine reports the results of an annual "statistical software survey" in the form of multi-page tables in the hardcopy and PDF versions of the magazine. These tables are not user friendly in the sense that it is difficult to explore and compare the products and tools. Surprisingly, the online implementation is even worse: a bunch of HTML pages, each with one static table.
Presenting the survey results in multi-page tables is not the most user-friendly (from Feb 2013 issue of OR/MS Today magazine)
To illustrate the point, I have converted the 2013 Statistical Software Survey results into an interactive dashboard. The user can examine and compare particular products or tools of interest using filters, sort the products by different attributes, and get a quick idea about pricing. Maybe not the most fascinating data, especially given the many missing values, yet I hope the dashboard is more effective and engaging.

Interactive dashboard. Click on the image to go to the dashboard

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