Data and Screens

If there is a viewable area, there will always be more data than can fit in that viewable area. If that isn’t an axiom, it should be.

We work on data tables that we put in the magazine and then put the same, or even more data on the website. No eye can handle all of that data. It’s not a font size problem (condense it to make it fit) but rather a content detection problem. Our eyes see that there is content but we can’t tear it apart.

Edward Tufte wrote about presenting visual data and the penchant for adding (essentially) chart junk. Noise that doesn’t tell the reader anything new. A table is essentially a chart with data where all the relevant data is important at different points. Which means that at some point of interaction, most of it becomes chart junk. A bit strong but I’m trying to get that point across.

This is the reason why Excel, with almost endless data columns and rows, let’s you freeze rows and columns. Or hide columns. So someone’s eyes can momentarily not deal with the chart junk.