Let Me Guide: Standards and Consistency, some of the Hichert principles I use
In this section of the Let Me Guide series I want to talk about standards and consistency in your dashboards, storyboards and infographics. Standards and consistency are of utmost use for both internal as external communications:
Understandability of your boards increases
Decreased risk of misinterpretation of your boards
Increase of recognition and familiarity to your boards
In this article I discuss some of the most impacting Hichert principles I use every time in my boards.
IBCS AND HICHERT GUIDELINES
Hichert Faisst defined a set of rules and guidelines compliant to the IBCS standard. These guidelines are more than a starting point for you to ensure consistency and clarity; they act as framework for any good board. Boards – or even better: a company’s dedicated visualization process – that apply to Hichert standards, do have the “trust” of your user community and thus more successful. The more mature business analytics products on the market are compliant towards IBCS amongst SAP. Some of the best practices described here can be seen in this video.
Hichert Faisst provides documented guidance and there are certification programs. The overview with the Hichert Succes Rules is worthwhile having a look at.
A very interesting interview series with Dr. Rolf Hichert can be accessed here. On November 4th there is this very interesting webinar with Dr. Hichert on visualization standards.
Scaling of axes
By all means avoid manipulation of scaling of axes. Especially proportioned scaling is not advised. Always use the complete range of an axis since manipulation of scaling leads to misinterpretation. The re-scaling is often used in polls or market share overviews and gives an incorrect impression of the overall dynamics of a metric.
If you do require to use scaling, always add the original (without scaling) visualization next to the re-scaled one for reference to the user. I tend to create a little magnifying glass picture closely next to the original chart and plot my re-scaled chart in there, so users understand that an area is re-scaled.
Chart type for series
Time series are best displayed with a column chart
When it comes to plotting time series driven information, you best use the vertical bar chart or column chart. Readability gets better if yourensure some spacing between the bars. Keep the spacing distance always the same. If you filter or exclude data, always (!) mention so on your board. Your user needs to be informed exactly on what you are trying to communicate. Tools like SAP Lumira automatically mention these exclusions or filters to the user.
Dimensional series are best displayed with a bar chart
If you require to plot dimensional series like sales per product, one best uses the horizontal bar chart. To save space I try to embed the legend into the chart. Again mention very explicitly if you excluded or filtered data in your board or visualization. Keep spaces between the individual bars.
Combine tables and charts if possible A best practice I use when required to both visualize a column chart and a cross tab table, is combining them as below into one visualization. It saves you a lot of space.
Below an overview of bad and good practices I have come across in many of customer engagements. The practices are solely Hichert based. The list is by far exhaustive but focusses on those principles that need to be respected the most often. In upcoming blogs I will highlight other principles.