Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Do web analytics infographics help decision making?

Data visualisation at its basic level should clarify the underlying data, helping to communicate it in a way that supports the decision-making process. The research showed that the “infoposter” style differed from a “true” infographic in many ways, not least the use of graphics.
Typically “infoposters”, as Connie Malamed observed, “collect facts and figures about a topic” and were designed to tell a story or communicate an idea or opinion in a highly graphical fashion. They tended to rely heavily on text and numbers to inform rather than where absolutely necessary and place emphasis on their design over their ability to communicate the underlying data clearly.
The addition of graphics as pure decoration (Edward Tufte’s “chartjunk”) detracted even more from their use as an effective communication tool. Ziemkiewicz and Kosara observed in 2007 that the most effective data visualisations had “bijectivity” where “every piece of information corresponds to exactly one unique visual element” and this was a “necessary condition for a visual representation of information to be readable”.
It was also shown that infographics/infoposters were not preferred by digital marketing professionals when receiving web analytics reports. The dashboard style was by far the most preferred by the sample group used in the research, as shown in the chart below.

What are the implications for both web analytics data and for infographics (“infoposters”)?

The research also suggested that the range of metrics used by digital marketing professionals to make decisions was quite narrow, reinforcing the findings of the recent Econsultancy and Lynchpin Online Measurement and Strategy Report. This report found that the 59% of the companies surveyed used 50% or less of the web analytics data collected for driving decision-making, as illustrated in the chart below.
My opinion of “infoposters” has not been changed by this research, I still see them being of little use when reporting web analytics data, but do believe that (when done well) they have their uses as a marketing tool.

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