We live in a data saturated world. Early last year, the Economist coined this information downpour as the “data deluge” – and calls data gatekeepers to transform their gates into transparency, suggesting that people and businesses, when informed, will act for the greater good. The “greater good” refers less to the concept of morality and meant to refer to outcomes in which individuals or parties of individuals make better decisions for themselves or their respective organizations.
The Data.gov initiative is founded and fueled by similar ideologies that data is a social good and belongs to the people.
But with all of this power transferred from the data keepers to the data consumers, a new dialogue rises to the surface about how data should be presented.
Data takes shape through a multitude of communication forms, and in varying permutations of text and visual displays of information. When should a chart be used in place of a table? For some, the answers are still not clear and the dialogue is alive and ongoing.
Charts are particularly effective in expressing relationships, whereas tables are best used when precise values are required as a reference for users; when the values are used to look up or compare individual values; or when the values involve multiple units of measure.
This week LivingSocial published data about the voucher purchase behavior of their members in a table format as can be seen below:
This data on Spring 2011’s purchase history within the beauty category is indeed pragmatic but it feels like more can be done to speak to the relational volumes between beauty elements. This data could further emerge from the page through a pie chart in order to illuminate the relationships between the categories. When you use a pie chart you can see that of the category-whole, massages make up a staggering share of the lot.
What do you think? Is the pie chart a more effective tool to illustrate this data? What would you have done differently?