Highlighting data viz best practices around the web

Monday, December 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner Schedule

Source: Dueling Data
Author: Adam McCann

Click on the image to go to the interactive version.


Best Practices:
  • Fun and engaging
  • Very useful!
  • Gantt chart view makes it very easy to see when the different menu items need to be started
  • Alternate row banding
  • Labeling each of the Gantt bars
  • Consistent font
  • Title color matches fall colors
  • Clear title
  • Including a reference line at "now" (i.e., 12pm when this screenshot was taken) makes it easy to see what should be in progress, what's coming next and if anything is late
  • The bubbles at the start of each Gantt bar are a nice touch
  • Clear instructions for how to use the viz
  • Sorting by time to start for each person
Recommended Enhancements:
  • None

Timeline: Gay Marriage Chronology

Source: Los Angeles Times
Authors: Megan Garvey, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Rong-Gong Lin II, Brady MacDonald, Mark McGonigle, Maloy Moore, Anthony Pesce, Ken Schwencke, James Wagner

Click on the image to go to the interactive version.


Best Practices:
  • Excellent use of color, which makes the distinctions very clear
  • Animated version makes the changes over time very apparent, particularly in the most recent months
  • Tells a simple story clearly without any instructions needed
  • Tooltips provide useful additional information
  • Light borders around the states separates them well without being distracting
  • Creating separate boxes for Rhode Island, Delaware and Washington D.C. helps to keep them from getting lost
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Make the animation faster by default; this view actually works better when I drag it myself rather than playing it because the play is too slow
  • Filled maps can sometimes be tough to see the overall patterns because the larger states will always outweigh the smaller states when viewed this way; it'd be interesting to see this as a dot plot with the dots sized by population

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Animated Drought Map Reveals Just How Thirsty California Has Become

Source: Los Angeles Times
Author: Kyle Kim

Note: Kyle also created a series of 156 maps, which you can view here.

A video posted by Los Angeles Times (@latimes) on


Best Practices:
  • The animated version is very dramatic.
  • The color scheme is a perfect way to represent the drought.
  • I like how the dot moves along the timeline.
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Slow the animation down
  • Stop the animation on the final map (as seen below)

Any Given Sunday: Winning Percentages by Major Sport

Source: Tableau Public
Author: Mike Cisneros

This viz is part of a larger story, which you can find here.


Best Practices:
  • Fantastic layout
  • Great use of jitter plots
  • Highlighting the league that this portion of the story is about
  • Adding the reference lines really helps drive the story home
  • Including the summary caption underneath MLB does a good job of assisting the viewer
  • Nice use of footnotes
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Mike has another view that takes these dots and changes the teams that didn't make the playoffs into circles. Wouldn't been good to include that in this view.

Socializing with Friends over the Holidays

Source: FiveThirtyEight
Author: Heather Krause


Best Practices:
  • The layout is excellent for walking you through the story. It reads clearly from top to bottom and left to right.
  • The stacked bars work well and make the comparison easy.
  • The lollipop charts are all based on the same scale, so you can actually compare any of them.
  • Bolding the keywords emphasizes the topic.
  • They resisted adding color; gray scale is perfectly fine. Color isn't always necessary.
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Why the gray background?
  • I don't like CAPITALIZATION everywhere; my preference is proper case.
  • I don't like how the first letter of each word in the title is capitalized. If you want to capitalize the title, words like "with" and "the" shouldn't be capitalized. Here's a great set of rules.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cowboys Show How a New Stadium Can Be a Huge Money-Maker for NFL Teams

Source: Business Insider - Sports Chart of the Day
Author: Cork Gaines


Best Practices:
  • A bar chart works better than a line chart here because both time and revenue have to be considered. The length of the bar is more important than the slope of a line, so a bar chart is preferred.
  • I like how the year of the new stadium is emphasized.
  • The labels are clear.
  • The story is easy to understand.
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Include a more meaningful title.
  • Remove the gridlines from the chart.
  • Instead of circling 2009, I would color the bar.
  • Use the Cowboys official colors for the bars: the darker blue for all years except 2009, gray for 2009 (or vice versa).

Monday, December 22, 2014

Key Differences in Being Out of Work for Men and Women

Source: The Upshot
Author: Binyamin Appelbaum


Best Practices:
  • Simple layout which makes finding the stat you interested in easy
  • Well organized
  • Good color choices
  • Clear labeling
  • Highlighting the Good and Bad segments, while muting the Neither segment
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Move the title and subtitle above the chart
  • Allow an alternative view that makes comparing men & women easier
  • Change the subtitle so that it summarizes the findings

Friday, December 19, 2014

U.S. Gun Deaths in 2013

Source: Periscopic
Author: Periscopic

This might be my favorite viz of the year, if not my favorite of all-time. Click on the image to go to the interactive version.


Best Practices:
  • The interactivity is amazing!
  • The way the viz gets created over time brings out the emotion of the story.
  • Visually stunning
  • Coloring the line by age at death (orange) and years stolen (gray) is really impactful.
  • The layout and overall design are perfect.
Recommended Enhancements:
  • None

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New York City Rat Map

Source: Visualizing.org
Author: Meredith Myers

Click on the map to go to the interactive version.



Best Practices:
  • Using a heat map to show concentrations
  • Using a blue/orange diverging color palette helps 
  • Giving the user the option to choose to see the heat map and/or the markers
  • Placing this on a map allows the user to zoom in on a specific area
  • As you zoom in, the heat map and numbers recalculate
  • Data updates daily!!
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Remove the halos from the markers

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Seasonal Fatalities on US Roads

Source: Gravy Anecdote
Author: Andy Cotgreave


Best Practices:
  • Adding the borders around each cell helps them stand out more individually. Bigger discussion here.
  • A heat map is the proper chart choice for the story being told.
  • Using a two color diverging palette is effective, and what is especially effective is that the scale goes from gray to red.
  • Using red as a metaphor for the story: fatalities
Recommended Enhancements:
  • I could not find a way to update this chart for a specific year in the original viz, so the word All should be removed from the subtitle.
  • Is the subtitle necessary?
  • In the interactive version of the viz, the font in the table does not match the font of the title and subtitle. I prefer they all match.
  • I'd like an option to view a larger version since the fonts are so small. The viz feels too compact.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fitbit Work Week Challenge

Source: Fitbit
Author: Unknown

This chart is from the Fitbit app as part of a work week step challenge. This is my personal view of the chart.


Best Practices:
  • Placing the images of the people in the challenge next to their names makes it feel more personal
  • Bar chart is the correct chart choice given the emphasis is the order
  • Adding the table on the right instead of placing the amount in the bar separates the view and makes it more visually appealing
  • Right-aligning the table
  • Highlighting the bar for the person viewing the chart, which makes it easier to spot yourself
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Add a selector to allow the view to be changed to steps per day

Friday, December 12, 2014

Diversity in Tech

Source: The Guardian
Author: David McCandless

Click the image to go to a larger version.


Best Practices:
  • Visually beautiful!
  • The organization is perfect with the totals across the top and then the breakdown into the verticals.
  • I knew the story as soon as I read the title.
  • I like how the headers repeated at the bottom of the chart. This is useful because the viz is long.
  • I love the comparisons to the Top 50 US companies, to the total US and to the "other" categories.
  • The alphabetical sorting is appropriate; this makes it easier to find a company.
  • The story is clear: more women are needed in tech.
Recommended Enhancements:
  • None

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best Dog Breed for You

Source: Tableau Public Blog
Author: Jewel Loree

Click the image to go to the interactive version.


Best Practices:
  • Normally I like to place my filters on the right, but in this viz placing them on the left works better because that is the starting place.
  • Great color choices!
  • Nice title with a cute little paw print in the background for added fun
  • Excellent use of space by placing the text on the bars
  • Interactions are fast and provide useful additional information
  • Bars re-sort automatically after the filters are changed
  • Clean fonts
Recommended Enhancements:
  • A pet peeve of mine is not including a space before and after the "-" after the dog breed on the bar chart. Yes, this is super nitpicky.
  • Remove the axis on the bar chart. It's not needed since the values are already inside the bars.
  • I would like to see how the bars look if they weren't so tightly packed. The standard spacing between bars is 1/2 the width of the bars themselves, but I think what Jewel has done here works well with the rest of the viz.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

Source: Podio
Author: Podio

Click image to see the fantastic interactive version.


Best Practices:
  • The interactive version allows you to pick an choose the categories you want to see.
  • As you choose a category, you get additional information about that category. Nice touch!
  • It funs to play with this viz because it allows you to find the story you're interested in.
  • Soft color palette
  • Clear timeline at the top of the viz
  • A Gantt chart is a great way to display this data.
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Include an option to pick the category to sort by; I can't determine the sort order.
  • Use the same font for the names that is used in the rest of the viz
  • Too much whitespace between the title, the subtitle and the chart

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Oil Prices Have Plummeted

Source: The Upshot
Author: Neil Irwin


Best Practices:
  • Simple title that tells the story of the chart
  • The aspect ratio of the chart is appropriate (roughly 3x2)
  • Minimalist style: few gridlines, only monthly tick marks
  • Fonts are crisp and easy to read
  • On the scale, only the highest value has the $ symbol included, which helps reduce clutter
  • Footer is muted as to not distract from the viz
  • Final value is clearly labeled and bold, which quickly draws your attention
Recommended Enhancements:
  • It's not immediately clear what time frame the viz represents. I would include the date range in the subtitle.

Friday, December 5, 2014

China's Urbanization Growth Rate

Source: Tableau Zen
Author: Mark Jackson (Tableau Zen Master)


Best Practices:
  • Excellent layout and overall design
  • The line chart does a great job of highlighting only the countries in the table. This makes them really stand out.
  • Making China wider in the bar chart immediately takes your attention to it
  • Labeling the ends of the lines and removing the axis
  • Simple title
Recommended Enhancements:
  • United Kingdom is cut off in the bar chart. The country column should be wider.
  • Why are the US and Brazil slightly wider bars than the other white bars? They should be consistent.
  • Round the percentages to whole numbers. The extra precision doesn't add any value.
  • Remove the shadowing on the text of the years below the line chart.
  • When I click on China in the bar chart, I get a nice view underneath it. I would like to see China by default since that's the focus of the story.
  • Update the subtitle to be a bulleted list. This will make differentiating each of the instructions easier.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

America's Working Mothers

Source: Tableau Public
Author: Ancestry.com

Click on the image to the interactive version.


Best Practices:
  • Clean design 
  • Correct chart choice 
  • Using color to distinguish the state selected from the national average 
  • Annotations are not overly distracting 
  • State selector is out of the way and doesn't interfere with the viz
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Where are 1890 and 1970? If those are missing, then that should be made more clear of the axis should be changed to continuous.
  • Remove the gridlines between the decades. They are unnecessary and appear in the middle of the decade. 
  • Move the blue line for the state selected to the front Remove annotation for US entering WWII. It doesn't flow with the rest of the annotations. 
  • Remove the state shape; it doesn't add any value. 
  • Needs a better title that highlights the story the viz is telling

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 Presidential candidates

Source: Washington Post
Author: Christopher Ingraham


Best Practices: 
  • Crisp fonts
  • Sorting is perfect
  • Story is simple and clear
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Remove the extra horizontal gridlines from the negative side of the graph
  • Names should be in proper case, not all upper case
  • Color the bar for the real people to distinguish the political parties
  • Add the axis label to the bottom as well so that my eyes don't have to scroll all the way back to the top

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