Information Overload, Why it Matters and How to Combat It
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Information visualization is the process of representing data in a visual and meaningful way so that a user can better understand it. Dashboards and scatter plots are common examples of information visualization. Via its depicting an overview and showing relevant connections, information visualization allows users to draw insights from abstract data in an efficient and effective manner.
Information visualization plays an important role in making data digestible and turning raw information into actionable insights. It draws from the fields of human-computer interaction, visual design, computer science, and cognitive science, among others. Examples include world map-style representations, line graphs, and 3-D virtual building or town plan designs.
The process of creating information visualization typically starts with understanding the information needs of the target user group. Qualitative research (e.g., user interviews) can reveal how, when, and where the visualization will be used. Taking these insights, a designer can determine which form of data organization is needed for achieving the users’ goals. Once information is organized in a way that helps users understand it better—and helps them apply it so as to reach their goals—visualization techniques are the next tools a designer brings out to use. Visual elements (e.g., maps and graphs) are created, along with appropriate labels, and visual parameters such as color, contrast, distance, and size are used to create an appropriate visual hierarchy and a visual path through the information.
Information visualization is becoming increasingly interactive, especially when used in a website or application. Being interactive allows for manipulation of the visualization by users, making it highly effective in catering to their needs. With interactive information visualization, users are able to view topics from different perspectives, and manipulate their visualizations of these until they reach the desired insights. This is especially useful if users require an explorative experience.
Here’s the entire UX literature on Information Visualization by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:
Take a deep dive into Information Visualization with our course Information Visualization .
Information visualization skills are in high demand, partly thanks to the rise in big data. Tech research giant Gartner Inc. observed that digital transformation has put data at the center of every organization. With the ever-increasing amount of information being gathered and analyzed, there’s an increasing need to present data in meaningful and understandable ways.
In fact, even if you are not involved in big data, information visualization will be able to help in your work processes as a designer. This is because many design processes—including conducting user interviews and analyzing user flows and sales funnels—involve the collation and presentation of information. Information visualization turns raw data into meaningful patterns, which will help you find actionable insights. From designing meaningful interfaces, to processing your own UX research, information visualization is an indispensable tool in your UX design kit.
This course is presented by Alan Dix, a former professor at Lancaster University in the UK. A world-renowned authority in the field of human-computer interaction, Alan is the author of the university-level textbook Human-Computer Interaction. “Information Visualization” is full of simple but practical lessons to guide your development in information visualization. We start with the basics of what information visualization is, including its history and necessity, and then walk you through the initial steps in creating your own information visualizations. While there’s plenty of theory here, we’ve got plenty of practice for you, too.