According to renowned AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories statistician John Tukey, “data may not contain the answer. The coordination of some data and an aching desire for an answer will not ensure that a reasonable one can be extracted from a given body of data.” While Tukey (1915-2000) is correct in an important respect—one should not overvalue data per se—he was never exposed to today’s Interactive Visualization, a term coined by Gartner.
The reality is that designers often fail to achieve both form and functionality, creating instead subpar visualizations—e.g., bar charts, steamgraphs, treemaps, Gannt charts, and scatter plots—that fail to serve their main purpose of communicating information. These are far from the ideal way to consume data. As a result, users responsible for driving actionable intelligence from their data are often overwhelmed and frustrated by the effort required to make sense of it all.
The answer is Interactive Visualization, which enables the display and intuitive understanding of multidimensional data, provides a variety of visualization chart types, and enables users to accomplish traditional data exploration tasks by making charts interactive. Interactive Visualization implies the use of heat maps, geographic maps, link charts, and a broad spectrum of special purpose visualizations that surround processes that are inextricably linked to an underlying analytics. Increasingly, this last feature will become a differentiator among vendors.