I thought this thread was too valuable to remain buried on the Perceptual Edge message board. “Candy-like” is the adjective I often use to describe shiny, round, three-dimensional-looking dashboard components, and Xcelsius is incredibly candy-like if you don’t make the effort to create a clean, professional dashboard. Even the samples on the SAP website are enough to offend anyone’s Tuftean sensibilities, also frequently lacking the appropriate data context required for quick analysis.
Here are some takeaways from the thread:
- Apply a skin like Halo or Windows Classic instead of the default, Aqua (you can permanently change your default theme under File, Preferences, Document)
- Remove gridlines when not they’re not necessary, e.g. when the purpose of a chart is to provide relative comparisons, not quantitative precision
- Show limits on circular, horizontal, and vertical gauges; show targets when feasible, e.g. when target locations will be static, not moving with scaling axes
- You can create sparklines with tiny line graphs with all labels, axes, etc. disabled
- Create multiple bullet charts with a stacked bar chart (targets) overlaid with a bar chart (actual), provided that they share a scale, which works best with percentages
And a few things I would add that were not mentioned in the thread:
- Left-align titles and subtitles
- Subtitles, help text, and axes should be a lighter shade than the axis labels, dimension labels, and data itself
- There is a free add-on for Xcelsius 2008 that allows you to create basic bullet charts and sparklines without employing workarounds (scroll to bottom of linked page)
While on his site, I also noticed that Stephen Few has a new book coming out June 1. Preorder!