They have produced an impressive compendium of Global Digital facts, and they had tweeted a chart from that deck that contained a summary of several measures for regions around the globe. It piqued my interest, and I had a close look. I found it difficult to make comparisons between regions so I created a data set, and had a little play in tableau to see what I could find
Let me compare thee to…
I think the design of the original graphic is very clean and elegant, but as the central design is around a map, I found it very hard to compare measures across each region. As a viewer, or consumer of the information, I want to be able to compare each measure, but I had to dart around the regions. It wasn't easy to complete the task I wanted to do - which is normally to try and see some sort of pattern or outlier or correlation.
X Marks the spot
I love it when I get a data set that enables me to plot points on a map. What I've found though is there are a few choice situations where it’s actually right to use one. Plotting a small table on a region may be handy if I don't know where that region is, but in this example I know where all these regions are located. So this becomes a design redundancy, and clouded my ability to answer the “So what?” question inside of me…
So, I took the figures from this chart and had a play around to see what was interesting about the numbers. Mobile access / connections are of interest to a lot of people at the moment, so that was the first place I looked. I initially created a dual axis bar/line graph, so you can see regions that over or under perform in terms of mobile connections compared to their population.
But I think looking via a scatter plot makes the differences clearer. I could encode mobile connections, internet users, and population in the one chart.
You can clearly see that developing economies are the ones that have a higher proportion of mobile connections. And from there you can go on and make all kinds of connections, or seek out other data sources;
- that lack of infrastructure means this is an ideal technology...
- how does this impact the development of digital tools in these regions...
- East Asia has the largest proportion of internet users, and I wonder why their mobile connection proportion doesn't reflect others that are geographically close?
- what can we learn from these regions experiences in developing tools in more developed economies... etc etc
I am sure in the comprehensive deck that We Are Social has developed contains all these kinds of observations (check it out here - it's likely to be a great reference and interesting read if you work in digital, insights, or have an interest in these things). I guess I really wanted to see what sorts of things emerged from the data if you allowed easier comparison between the numbers.
One of the things I have to constantly ask myself when I design an information graphic for a client is if the audience can easily do the task they need to do (compare data points, understand a dynamic, see a trend, etc)? Are they left with a "so what?" or an "Aha!"? (And what's an Aha for me could be a "yeah, whatever" for others - so making sure I test is also important too)
It's hard juggling these requirements with the demands of making something visually appealing. There is a LOT of debate in the industry about how far you go down the "visually appealing" path. Some practitioners are all "Just that facts m'aam"...but I tend to align myself with more moderate commentators - that an aesthetically appealing design is very important, because without an appealing aesthetic, you may be overlooked by your audience. I don't think my new chart is better looking than the original graphic. I can't deny, there is something very compelling about a map! It's a tricky balance, folks, and a topic I hope to explore here again.