Visual Design Guidelines for Geographical Data Visualization Dashboards

We business intelligence dashboarders have been taken advantage of the relative ease of incorporating maps and geographic location information into our business dashboards more than ever. Remember how expensive geographic information systems used to be and how arcane a science it was? Well, now there are plenty of free APIs that you can incorporate into your mashup dashboards.

However, Stephen Few reminds us in his latest newsletter Introduction to Geographical Data Visualization that we must follow certain visual design guidelines or risk creating confusing “stories” when incorporating maps into our information visualizations.

The opportunity that many of us now have to display quantitative information on maps offers great potential, but only if we know and follow a few simple visual design guidelines. This article will help you design displays that clearly feature quantitative data in the context of geography, and will suggest ways to extend your analytical reach by coordinating the use of maps and graphs together in complementary and seamless ways.

Here’s a sample chart he provides as a sample of something that just doesn’t work. You can’t just slap what you are doing on your current data visualizations onto a map. Note how difficult it is to compare bars from different charts (unless they are close to each other).

geographic data visualization

Here’s an example of a dashboard done right in terms of bringing in a geographic location data visualization to fully flesh out the story being told. This dashboard shows house price trends:

house sales dashboard

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