How information visualization novices construct visualizations


Abstract—It remains challenging for information visualization novices to rapidly construct visualizations during exploratory data
analysis. We conducted an exploratory laboratory study in which information visualization novices explored fictitious sales data by
communicating visualization specifications to a human mediator, who rapidly constructed the visualizations using commercial
visualization software. We found that three activities were central to the iterative visualization construction process: data attribute
selection, visual template selection, and visual mapping specification. The major barriers faced by the participants were translating
questions into data attributes, designing visual mappings, and interpreting the visualizations. Partial specification was common, and
the participants used simple heuristics and preferred visualizations they were already familiar with, such as bar, line and pie charts.
From our observations, we derived abstract models that describe barriers in the data exploration process and uncovered how
information visualization novices think about visualization specifications. Our findings support the need for tools that suggest
potential visualizations and support iterative refinement, that provide explanations and help with learning, and that are tightly
integrated into tool support for the overall visual analytics process.

Lars Grammel, Melanie Tory, and Margaret-Anne Storey
Publication Date: 
Monday, November 1, 2010
Publication Information: 
IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Proc. of Information Visualization’10), vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 943-952, Nov./Dec. 2010