Monday, January 16, 2012

wisdom of crowds: how can we improve this viz?

I am in the exciting process of selling a house. In case you're unsure, that sentence is dripping with sarcasm. While I tend to have fun on the buying side, selling (at least in my recent experience) seems to be all about fixing things and losing money.

Ok, that's enough ranting (almost)...on to the data viz. The broker I'm using apparently has a kiosk in the local mall that is meant to drive traffic to their office. My mild curiosity (and disbelief that this is an effective way to find buyers) prompted me to ask my agent what percentage of sales can be traced back to the kiosk. She sent me the following graphs:

While I can answer my question based on the visuals (4% of transactions appear to be driven by the kiosk - not much, but more than I would have guessed), these graphs seem to be poster children for how not to present data. In my current ranting mood, I could go on and on about what I'd change, but instead I'll try to get over myself and let you join in on the fun: what about the above visuals bothers you the most? Leave a comment. Bonus points for discussing what you'd do differently if you were presenting this information.

Anyone looking to buy a cute rambler in Poulsbo, WA? :-)


  1. Well, duh, the pie becomes a horizontal bar chart sorted largest at the top to smallest at the bottom.

    In the bottom chart, are the blue bars the total transactions from all sources, or the total transactions from the kiosk?

  2. I'll take a stab at that.

    Pie chart:

    1. Remove the two 0% entries, which chew up stick/labeling space, and consider consolidation of blog/website, sign call, farming, and open house into a single "other" category.
    2. Group the remaining <5% items into the upper left area where their sticks and labels can be clustered gracefully.
    3. Relabel "floor", "farming", and "sphere" unless you're giving these to a real estate professional

    Bar CHart:

    Destroy it totally and use the money you WOULD have spent preparing it on hiring an SEO specialist. They cannot SERIOUSLY be getting a mere 5% of their traction from online sources, surely? Please tell me that "Sphere" is an obscure code for online advertising of some sort.

  3. Jon: Yep, bottom chart appears to be kiosk driven transactions only (your question highlights the poor placement of the graph title).

    Kevin: According to the note from the realtor that accompanied the charts, "sphere" is "people that came from someone the agent knew". I'm not totally clear what that means (whether the agent knows the buyer or someone who knows the buyer, or maybe even someone who knows someone who knows the buyer). At any rate, it does not mean internet. :-)

    Thanks for the comments - keep 'em coming!

  4. looks good. LOL

    For me, i wouldnt group the number of sales with the percent of sales in the bar chart. I would also sort the pie chart by percent, so it sorts from biggest to smallest. But other than that, i can't imagine a different kind of presentation.

  5. Using the Microsoft commercial as a guide, the charts need explosions. And I mean the real Hollywood explosions with actors walking in slow motion, not the pull-out-one-of-the-slices explosions, although that would help as well :-)

    But seriously, one thing they should create a group called Others and put some of the smaller proportions in there. Both "Craigslist" and "First Time Home Buyer Class" have a value of 0! Why even show them? Makes no sense to label the slices AND have a legend. Drop the legend. Make 2D... Read and apply everything found here:

  6. I hope I'm reading these comments wrong. Did people actually recommend KEEPING the pie chart? Oh, pie charts make me throw up in my mouth.

    Bar chart, definitely. Now if she could send you the data for the transactions driven from each source, then you could build something interactive that might actually provide some value.

  7. I made up some data and created a little interactive dashboard. Including a motion chart based on Jon Peltier´s "Gapminder for Excel" ( Though it might not be necessary and helpful in this case I wanted to try out his interpolation technique.
    In the real world with real data this dashboard might be the starting point for telling a story.
    You can download the Excel-file here:

  8. Glad to join this blog , excellent job Cole.
    - No pie chart for this many groups, and definately no 3D effects. You can minimize and regroup to have fewer numbes to compare between or use a hor. bar chart as suggested above. If kept the pie,play with the colors a bit to have them more homogenous, and you can seperate the pieces of the pie to make each group distinguishable.
    -Bar chart: use a line graph , go with the % only (less noise).If necessary to keep,mention the total# in the title, or add the numebrs for each year next to each bar without actually drawing special bars for them. Loose the gridlines and the Y-axis if you are going to keep the labels.Loose the legend as you want need it now, or if decided to keep the second series, just put some text next to the series line graph.