I was catching up on some reading on one of my favourite news resources, SlashDot
, and I remembered there was an article posted a while ago about the visualization of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
key metrics. I thought that was interesting and decided to check out the USPTO's Data Visualization Center.
I want to preface this opinion on the fact that I know this is not intended to be a dashboard but some principals still hold true. It emotionally scarred me when I opened the page. Probably the biggest problems I had with the page were the following:
• The lack of up front context to the metrics displayed - it's great to show these values such as the number of backlogs and the number of examiners in these gauges, but there's no context other than a glowing color of whether it was good or bad. I would personally like to see what makes it a different color. I.e. what is it bench marked against to make it this color? There needs to be a legend to describe what each color means, as well.
• The poor use of real estate – I typically try to avoid using gauges when there is limited space to work with. Ideally, a scorecard approach should have been taken. This would allow this information to be displayed in a non-scrolling web page. I.e. you can have the metric value shown as a bullet graph, the trend show as a sparkline, and a hover over to show the details of the trend
• When you click on a gauge, it shows the overall trend for a metric in a horizontal bar chart
! Although you can still read the chart, people view trends as vertical bars or a line graph. I’m actually quite shocked why they would choose such an unorthodox visual representation.
Overall, the Data Visualization Center is a poor attempt by the USPTO to convey data to the public. I have to say though, the clouds in the binoculars are quite appropriate – the visualizations make the data really cloudy. Sorry for ending this with a bad joke. :)
posted @ Monday, October 04, 2010 1:59 PM