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The silos of Visualisation design and UX

I just finished facilitating a UX/visualisation workshop to EUPORIAS with Jason Dykes and Stephann Makri. Jason's talk made me realise how important visualisation is; bringing new meaning to data and enhancing our understanding of what that data means.

Visualisation has a large role to play in scientific interface design. It has the potential to unleash the vast amounts of knowledge available especially in bioinformatics. There seems to be a significant overlap between visualisers and UXers in the methods used but very little cross-pollination between the disciplines.

A while ago, Moritz Stefaner brought to my attention this paper; "What does the user want to see? What do the Data want to be?". Pretorius et al. argue that in some domains users do not have a clear cut idea about the questions they have in mind or what they want to see in visualisation. The visualisation in this example is evolved over many iterations using techniques of both visualisation design (focussing and completely understand the data) and user experience (comprehensive research about the users). I think it is a good illustration of how using techniques from both communities can be very complementary.

Incidentally here is a video illustrating the power of visualisation about the Barclays Bike hire scheme produced by Jo Wood and Jason Dykes et al.

[vimeo clip_id=33712288]

"Summary of five million bicycle journeys made in 2010/11 in central London as part of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. Origins and destinations of each journey recorded and animated along a curved trajectory.
This animation shows the effect of changing the length of the 'trail' left by each journey (starts to increase from 15 seconds into the animation). By changing the prominence given to more common journeys (from 45 seconds onwards), structure emerges from the apparent chaos of journeys. Three major systems become apparent (from 1 minute onwards) - Hyde park to the west, commuting to/from King's Cross St Pancras to the north and Waterloo to/from the City to the east."