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August 19, 2011

Chartbeat – A cute but deficient web traffic dashboard

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While reading an article on Sports Chart of the Day, a cute little gauge on the right sidebar titled “The Engage-O-Meter” caught my eye. Naturally I clicked on it (which must mean they did something correct with its placement).  The gauge directs you to a dashboard that’s capturing real-time site traffic for 

The amount of information on the page is impressive, overwhelming and disorganized.  Two pieces of the dashboard confused my straight away (and they’re the only two sections of the dashboard you see when the screen first appears because there’s so much spaced used at the top for basically nothing). 

Let’s dissect these two charts/graphs.

What mistakes have been made?

  1. It takes up way too much space on the dashboard.  There’s a ton of white space in this one chart alone.
  2. The active visits number could be represented as just that, a number.  The gauge isn’t necessary and doesn’t add any value.
  3. The new & returning users are difficult to interpret.  Why do the numbers need to be so precise?  Would a relative measure, like % of total, be more appropriate?

I would present this information in a table. Ultimately we’re simply “looking up” the data, which lends well to a table.  We’re not attempting to determine any trends, which is what charts do well.

Active Visits

Now 8,342
30-day Min 3
30-day Max 17,971


Visitor Composition
New 20%
Returning 80%

Onto the second chart.

What could be improved?  What’s confusing?

  1. This “Top Pages” section, is merely a list of the top pages and their respective number of active visits.  Why not a simple list?
  2. Do the circles add any value?  To me they don’t.  Each circle represents 10 active users, but the layout of the circles doesn’t make sense.  If you count across, there are 19 columns.  Why not 20?  That’d at least make it easier to estimate the totals.
  3. If you multiply the number of circles by 10 in each section, you don’t get the same total as represented by the number itself.
  4. I believe, but can’t substantiate, that they’re making this similar to a Merimekko chart, which is a chart that encodes two variables: one for height and one for width.  I don’t see why this would be necessary at all.

Maybe representing all of the data as a bar chart would be better. 


In the end, with these two simple changes, I’ve been able to save a ton of space.  The rest of their dashboard could be reworked as well and maybe it’d all fit into one nice window.

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