Data Visualization: Adding Functionality

It's important to understand functionality in the data-viz world: a series of actions that you expect users to take, usually in a sequential manner, that helps them have the most optimal experience with a given data viz. To determine what functionality to choose, ask yourself two questions:

  • Where do I want the users to go? In most cases, when users enter your data viz, you want their eyes to focus on their current state. A glance at the current snapshot should let them decide if they need to address the matter immediately or come back later, based on whether their current state is negative or positive.

  • When the users get where I want them to be in the data viz, what happens next? The answer to this question is critical, as it dictates what you expect to happen after the users look at the data viz. The user's next steps need to be clear.

The following table shows several common actions that users may take after they enter a data viz.

Common User Next-Step Action Outcome
Make a decision After the user sees the resulting data, he or she decides the next steps, which is your desired outcome.
Use a menu selector When using menu selectors, the user can filter or drill down into the visualization or even change what's being displayed.
Move to next section The user understands the message that the data is communicating and needs to move to another section to continue the story.
Share visual(s) The user decides to take a screen shot and then e-mail all or part of the data viz to someone else for the purpose of gaining collective knowledge or delegating next steps.

Although the table doesn't cover every scenario, the list accounts for about 80 percent of the actions a user will take. To finish defining the functionality, simply ask yourself "What happens next?" until the user makes a decision. Intelligent data helps users make faster decisions.

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