Bite-Sized Data Visualization

It is important to design a dashboard that is useful and conveys vital information, without overwhelming your users.  One technique for managing a mountain of data is the use of drilldowns.  A drilldown presents data to a user in bite-sized portions, instead of sitting them at the buffet table.  Rather than drowning in a sea of numbers, a user can chart a course and navigate at their own pace.  Consider the following example for a fictitious wine sales company:

The chart in the top left corner, “National Sales by Type”, gives a 30,000-foot view of the company’s sales, broken out by type of wine.  We can click on the section of the chart for a particular type of wine, and drill down to another chart, “National Sales by Subtype”, shown in the top right corner.

This second chart gives a 20,000-foot view of the business, and in this example we see a breakdown of sales for the different types of Merlot.  Clicking again leads to a third chart, “National Sales by Size”, shown in the bottom left corner.

Now we are at a 10,000-foot view, showing sales by bottle size, for the type of wine AND the subtype that we selected.  In this example, we can click one more time and get the chart in the bottom right corner, “Order Details”.

This last chart shows a long list of individual orders with various details, this time for all of our selections – type of wine AND subtype AND bottle size.

Notice that we did not show this list of orders as our FIRST chart – it contains far too many details for a user to analyze quickly.  The “National Sales by Type” chart is much more useful, because users can see at-a-glance how the company is doing.  If a user chooses to, they can click through to see details for a specific type of wine, a specific subtype, and even a specific bottle size.  Drilldowns filter a large dataset gradually, allowing users to see the sections that are important to them.

Want to see this drilldown in action?  Simply click here to try out a live, interactive example of these charts on the iDashboards website!

Warren Singh– Technical Consultant, iDashboards

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