Telling Great Data Stories Online

Location: Mission City B5
Average rating: ***..
(3.31, 13 ratings)


Interactive visualizations have become the new media for telling stories online. With myriad new programs for creating these visualizations, it has thankfully become common to see useful interactive data. Unfortunately, confusing visuals have also been proliferating. This session will focus on going from a good visualization to a great visualization by focusing on organization, user interface, and formatting. You should expect to leave this session confident in your ability to consistently create excellent interactive visuals.


1. Organization – It is all to easy to use charts and graphs that don’t make sense for your data. In this section, we will discuss the most effective chart types for certain data, and how to arrange them for greatest effect in interactive dashboards.

2. Interactivity – Interactivity can be the difference between a horribly confusing visualization and an all-star analysis. However, needless interactivity can take an all-star analysis and make it useless. This section will discuss applying useful and engaging interactivity to online visualizations.

3. Formatting – Colors, fonts and borders matter. This section will discuss bringing good design principles into every visualization to optimize beauty and analytical value.


Making amazing interactive content is a complex process, but by following the best practices outlined in this session you will be able to simplify the process and improve the quality of your visualizations.

Photo of Jock Mackinlay

Jock Mackinlay

Tableau Software

Jock Mackinlay is Tableau Software’s Director of Visual Analysis. Jock has a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University, where he pioneered the automatic design of graphical presentations of relational information. He joined Xerox PARC in 1986, where he collaborated with the User Interface Research Group to develop many novel applications of computer graphics for information access, coining the term “Information Visualization.” Much of the fruits of this research can be seen in his book, “Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think” (Morgan Kauffman, written and edited with Stuart K. Card and Ben Shneiderman). Jock is a co-inventor of numerous software patents related to information visualization.

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Picture of Jock Mackinlay
Jock Mackinlay
02/04/2011 2:35am PST

My view is that data stories should include the raw data, which will help every reader evaluate the analysis used in data storytelling. As I said in my talk, “always question data”. It also helps readers to have easy to use tools for doing that evaluation.

Anthony Cassandra
02/02/2011 2:15pm PST

There was more of a product demo focus than a presentation of data focus.

I also worry that tools of this sort make it too easy for a naive user to tailor the data to their stories and thus make most of the stories more fiction than fact. These tools should simultaneously be helping the users to know what is an is not statistically relevant and supportable in the stories they are making up about the data.


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