Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Graphic tables … simply breathtaking!

The benefits of using graphical tables ...

"Graphical tables are just amazing. They combine the advantages of tables and charts while avoiding their disadvantages to revolutionize the way we create management reports. In fact, they even entice managers to sit back, take a deep breath and a few minutes to examine them thoroughly – with or without their feet up.

Last week I advocated the concept of “lean” reporting - management reports that can be published without manual editing to streamline production to industrial-like standards. Today, I am going to explain how this works.

Column charts are a typical standard in business reports. But why? We write horizontally and columns run vertically. As a result, the presentation is obese but the content suffers from anorexia. Headlines are constantly broken up and numbers either overlap or appear to be samba dancing off the ends of the columns.

Most column charts can be easily replaced by bar graphs. In this case, the bars should not be higher than the font size and wider than a normal cell. This way, we can integrate text, numbers and graphics in a compact, information-dense table. (Those who are really talented can achieve this with columns as Bella recently reported.)

The strengths of graphical tables are really apparent when time comes into play. This is when normal tables and business charts quickly reach their limitations in presentation. Let’s assume that we want to present budget and actual margin figures as well as their absolute and relative variance for the past twelve months. Displayed in tables, this information would fill four normal pages of paper."    (Continued via Me, myself and BI)    [Usability Resources]

Four Pages In One Table - Usability, User Interface Design

Four Pages In One Table

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