Presenting Statistics On Web Sites

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Developing best practice for presenting statistics on the web: A focus on UK Government

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Presenting Statistics On Web Sites

  1. 1. Developing best practice for presenting statistics on the web: A focus on UK Government John Maslen, GeoWise www.instantatlas.com
  2. 2. GeoWise <ul><li>A UK and international provider of web solutions for managing and visualizing geography and statistics for: </li></ul><ul><li>Data visualisation / exploration </li></ul><ul><li>Area profiling </li></ul><ul><li>Performance Management reporting </li></ul><ul><li>Statistical publishing </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Changing Information Environment <ul><li>Increasing volumes of data (overload?) </li></ul><ul><li>Greater emphasis on ‘evidence’ to back-up action </li></ul><ul><li>More obligations on public sector reporting + more comprehensive auditing procedures </li></ul><ul><li>Information reaching all levels - tools getting easier to use </li></ul><ul><li>Lay users often lack exploratory data skills – need training to create ‘barefoot statisticians’ </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge management and metadata often not considered high priority – management culture issue </li></ul><ul><li>Data experts often under-valued and few in number </li></ul><ul><li>Rising customer expectations </li></ul>
  4. 4. 10 generic guidelines for presenting statistics on the web
  5. 5. Guideline 1 <ul><li>Different user types have different needs – one size does not fit all! Get to know your users, their skill levels, their level of data knowledge, what their ‘thinking task’ is likely to be - refine your end products as your understanding improves. Some users will find raw data meaningful, others meaningless. Public nature of Internet makes understanding citizen user needs a BIG challenge > try running consultations with sample user groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Use presentation techniques appropriate to the nature of your data - 'a picture is worth a thousand words (or numbers)' – use comparisons - many prefer textual synopsis (80% people ‘number blind’). </li></ul>Guideline 2
  6. 6. <ul><li>&quot;Bad graphics fail because they omit or manipulate context, deceive by discouraging comparison or obscuring important details, and confuse with visual miscues. Tell the truth. Show the data in its full complexity. Reveal what is hidden. Especially, respect the reader.“ </li></ul><ul><li>Edward Tufte, 1997 </li></ul>
  7. 7. Guideline 3 <ul><li>Use presentational techniques that take advantage of the web – eg. don't replicate a hardcopy output in PDF if you can bring new insights and understanding through user interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Communicating numeric statistics effectively to non-specialists requires thought, preparation and testing. Generic rule of thumb – 33% effort should go on data capture/research, 33% on analysis, 33% on dissemination. Dissemination often an after-thought! </li></ul>Guideline 4
  8. 8. Guideline 5 <ul><li>Reality is complex - problems are multivariate. Avoid jargon. Make content engaging and useful. Where appropriate provide multiple routes into presenting the same data to suit different user needs – don’t assume novice users have ‘simple’ needs. ‘Dumbing down’ may not be the best solution. </li></ul><ul><li>Presenting the figures well may not be enough – users may need training and impartial ‘expert’ advice at the end of the phone or in person (“answers on tap”). </li></ul>Guideline 6
  9. 9. Guideline 7 <ul><li>Presenting data ‘on-the-fly’ is a MAJOR challenge to do well. Often puts the onus on non-expert users to do interpretation. Try to add tools and text to lead users through interpretation process. </li></ul><ul><li>Delivering content dynamically may not be the best solution – use publishing approaches (data often not dynamic) to add more control over content, function and ultimately message. Can also include interpretation. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t underestimate the demand for embedding dynamic content into static content for publishing (Word, PDF etc) – try to make outputs easy to copy-paste and, if possible, ‘printer-friendly’ </li></ul>Guideline 8
  10. 10. Guideline 9 <ul><li>Try to follow agreed web guidelines and standards eg. usability (response times, colours etc), metadata (eGMS, DDE, SDMX), web accessibility (WAI) etc. </li></ul>Guideline 10 <ul><li>Make metadata obvious/explicit – it should describe purpose, data sources and data characteristics (dataset -> record). Also metadata about elements of graphical presentation, searchable tags in XML/SVG files etc. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Examples of InstantAtlas Statistics Dashboards </li></ul>
  12. 12. Worcestershire crime patterns
  13. 13. Patterns of health in Sheffield
  14. 14. Crime patterns in Brent
  15. 15. Hotspots of crime patterns in Brent (2)
  16. 16. Norfolk deprivation - different geographies, same indicator
  17. 17. Brighton deprivation - same geography, same indicator, different dates
  18. 18. Crime in Newcastle - same geographies, different indicators, same dates
  19. 19. Performance scorecard across Norfolk Districts
  20. 20. Funnel plot of significance of health indicators
  21. 21. Profile of Scotland’s health
  22. 22. Profile of Scotland’s health with radar chart
  23. 23. Scorecard of English health survey results
  24. 24. Edward Tufte on graphics… <ul><li>“ Making decisions based on evidence requires the appropriate display of that evidence. Good displays of data help to reveal knowledge relevant to understanding mechanism, process and dynamics, cause and effect.” </li></ul>“ When consistent with the substance and in harmony with the content, information displays should be documentary, comparative, causal and explanatory, quantified, multivariate, exploratory, skeptical...it also helps to have an endless commitment to finding, telling and showing the truth.”
  25. 25. Useful References <ul><li>Publications of Edward Tufte, Bill Cleveland and Naomi Robbins </li></ul><ul><li>BDS Graphics Team (“Principles for Graphical Display”) </li></ul><ul><li>&quot; Plain Figures &quot; (2nd ed.1996 Stationery Office) </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.cdc.gov/ncphi/disss/nndss/asb/orcmacro.htm </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.statistics.gov.uk/about_ns/cop/downloads/datapresentation.pdf </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.plainfigures.com/index.html </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.sbtc.ltd.uk/freenotes.html </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/nao_reports/9900272.pdf </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pdf/35.pdf </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.nedarc.org/nedarc/utilizingData/utilizingDataForCommunication/defineGoalForCommunicating.html </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.instantatlas.com/supportlinks.xhtml </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/ </li></ul>
  26. 26. visualise | communicate | ENGAGE www. instantatlas .com

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