AP “Bailout Tracker” visualizes data, but not effectively
Today I came across “Bailout Tracker,” a Flash interactive graphic by AP. Although I am impressed by the immense amount of data, I believe that several key components could have elevated this graphic to improve overall user experience. Let’s analyze this graphic and brainstorm how we could improve it.
First, I believe that if we need to put instructions on what to do then it is not efficient. For instance, the text, “Click anywhere for breakdown of recipients and amounts,” wastes valuable space and detracts from the opening graphic. Why not put a simple button to advance, or, better yet, put this graphic below the second graphic of the chart?
I was initially excited to interact with the following chart, but I found myself getting easily frustrated by the inability to zoom in and expand the densely-populated areas to better see the circles. As is, the overwhelming amount of circles in such a small space confounds the user. This could have been fixed with zooming capabilities to stretch the chart to a more manageable size.
Also, if the “Amount Requested Unknown” section is displayed at the bottom of the chart, then it would make sense for the “Market Valuation Unknown” to appear on the left side, rather than on the right. Currently, the circles in the vertical gray section make me think that they have a market value of over 126 billion (which is completely inaccurate), especially since the gray type is muddled by all of the circles.
Although there is room for improvement, there are a lot of great things going on in this graphic. The ability to parse and organize thousands of numbers (five parcels for the hundreds of companies) in a 750×620 pixel window is impressive. It was a great addition to sync the interaction from the list on the left with the chart on the right. I also appreciate the multiple ways to navigate the page, either by the list or by the chart.
But most of all, I am glad that the producers are at least trying new techniques to visualize information on the Web. Regardless of the outcome, it is admirable that some people out there are still able to experiment with storytelling techniques with everything else going on in the industry.
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Tags: Associated Press, Bailout Tracker, data visualization, Flash, graphic, interactivity