2020.09.18 Brainstorming Interactions


This week we read two papers (link1, link2) about interacting with visualizations. They outlined the different ways that individuals select, filter, navigate, re-organize, and store information through interactions with visualization systems. For this activity you will work together in a small group to design a visualization-based dashboard that features interactions. Think carefully about how users will spot trends, filter data down to fit their interests, see an overview or details, select points of interest, handle millions of points onscreen, and share their findings. The goal of this activity is not to produce a final, polished design. Instead, aim to create a general "sketch" of your visualization. You should be able to tell the class how you decided to visualize the data (ideally with a rudimentary sketch), the specific interactions you have brainstormed implementing, what choices you made during the design process, and any trade-offs or alternatives you considered. In this activity every group will work on the same challenge.

Please follow this procedure:

  1. As a group, read the brief.
  2. Take a look at the table of data you will have access to. Note that you aren't given specific values, just the kinds of attributes you can access. This is intentional. Feel free to invent whatever kind of values you think might fit for those attributes. You can even invent new data attributes if you think they are plausible.
  3. First take a bit of time to brainstorm a use case for your visualization. Who is using it? What do they want to learn through the data?
  4. Start ideating on a visualization (or visualizations). Aim for depth rather than covering everything. Brainstorm interactions which will help your analyst to explore the data and learn the things you identified in the previous step.
  5. The scale of the problem is such that you will have to integrate interaction into your dashboard in order for it to be workable. Concentrate on how you design interactions to create a usable tool.
  6. For the next 30 or so minutes, work together to flesh out your ideas. Take notes so that you can later use to provide the information mentioned above to the class..
Note that you may design for mobile multi-touch devices or traditional desktop platforms. Pick one.

Your brief

Your group is an elite team of UX designers at an up-and-coming Internet commerce firm, Nile. Nile sells a variety of products globally through a hugely popular online platform. They also allow independent sellers to create their own "Nile Storefront" through which they can market their own items on the platform. The products sold are incredibly numerous, and the number of sales each year on the platform reach into the billions. Some independent sellers sell only a few thousand products each year, while others sell millions. One major challenge for Nile's continuing growth is its aging internal infrastructure. Staff depend on a dated internal dashboard that allows them to explore global sales data. They use this tool to identify upcoming sales trends, new markets, areas where they are falling short, and demographics for advertisements (among other tasks). Independent sellers also have access to a version of this dashboard that shows only their own store's sales. The tool is critical to Nile's success as a business.

As is the case with many rapidly growing technology companies, their infrastructure has not kept pace with their growth. The current dashboard, developed in 2003 and only updated in a minor way, uses hyperlinks and requires users to type their own queries in SQL in order to find data. Visualizations are rudimentary, and the JPEG-based map view features a few countries that no longer exist and clickable arrows for navigation. Your team has been tasked with a complete re-write of this dashboard. You are to create a new, highly interactive tool for exploring these data. While you will have a couple of years to complete a full tool, you must deliver a proposal outlining your visual and interactive elements as soon as possible.

Here are some example use cases to consider (but feel free to make up your own):

Nile Sales Data

** The "raw" data you can access are a table of individual sales made on Nile. Employees can access all of the data, while Storefront owners can only see their sales. Assume that they have somehow resolved any internationalization / language issues.

Name of item sold Descriptive title of item that was sold
Item categories Tags/categories describing item (e.g. "camera", "housewares", "60w lightbulb")
Sale timestamp Time that the item was purchased
Sale quantity Amount of item that was purchased
Purchase price Cost of item
Total purchase price Cost * quantity
Average product rating Review rating of product at time of purchase
Buyer's review If buyer reviewed, score and review
Location of sale Lat/lng coordinates of the buyer
Geo-info for sale City, State, Country for the buyer
Time it took to arrive Time in days between order and delivery
Anonymized buyer ID Identifier for the buyer
Buyer demographics Hyper-detailed demographics (e.g. gender identity, age, relationship status, region of birth, interests, possessions, bad habits)

** Your database team at Nile is very smart, and they are happy to put together some aggregated data to make your life easier. Here are a few examples:

Average sales over a week for a set of states/countries
Total monthly sales for specific products by demographics - Do all cat owners buy litter online?
Highest rated product bought by at least 10 people in Florida every March
Standard deviation in delivery time for a specific city during the last week

**You've also got access to an internal AI platform that tries to predict future trends. Here are a few examples of what it can provide:

Expected sales next week for a specific region
Whether sales in a region matched algorithmic expectations last month
The likelihood that a specific buyer demographic will buy a specific product