May 12, 2012 3

Redesigning the MLS Listing

By in Experiments in Info Design

At various times in the past seven years I’ve searched for a home to purchase.  The process is always the same – find realtor, describe ideal house to realtor, get sent links to lots of less-than-ideal homes via the connectMLS website.  For those of you that haven’t been lucky enough to experience this site, I am fairly certain that the UI hasn’t been updated since 1995.  Lots of blue text, information scattered all over the place, hard to navigate, etc.  Just a pleasure.

The most difficult part of the site to digest is the single listing detail view.  You would think if they got one thing right, this would be it.  Unfortunately, it’s a cluster of incredibly dense, poorly aligned, and scattered information.  After looking at another 30 listings in the past few weeks, I decided to give this page a little makeover.

I stuck to a few rules.  I had to keep all of the content unless it was repetitious,  I had to use the same size font as the original, and I couldn’t increase the size of the canvas.  However, everything else was fair game.  If I really wanted to do it right, I would definitely push some of the lesser-used information onto a fourth panel and include some trending information about pricing or comparables in the neighborhood.

This was more an exercise in alignment, hierarchy, and information grouping than anything else.  The one significant change I made (besides alignment, etc.) was to group information into an interesting hierarchy – financial, location, building, home, room details, interior features…  My goal was to match the process a viewer might walk through, starting from the location of the home down to its smallest details.

Below you’ll see the before and after, and a full pdf can be found here.

Before:

MLS Real Estate Listing - Before

After:

MLS Real Estate Listing - After

April 19, 2012 0

Propagating Garbage

By in Not So Great Information Design

As if there weren’t enough terrible infographics in the world, visual.ly has introduced an automatic infographic creator.  The only good thing about this Incredibly Terrible Thing is that it validates my assertion that it takes zero talent to create an infographic these days and that anyone who spends their time creating yet another 600 pixel x 2,300,000,000 pixel graphic with 3 numbers and a line chart has completely wasted their time.  As my most recent post shows, it takes a lot of talent, thought, and effort to create a good infographic, but zero to create a bad one.  Visual.ly, who is supposed to celebrate good, informative information design has solidified my assertion by simplifying the process to the same degree of difficulty as filling in a PowerPoint template.  World, prepare yourself for a slightly uglier internet.

Oh, and if this isn’t bad enough, visual.ly made the awesome choice of putting the tool behind a mandatory sign-up interstitial, meaning I had to create a JohnDoe account just to use it.  Then, once you create a graphic, they ask you if you’d like to pay money to brand it.  Can I pay money to stop other people from branding their auto-generated infographics?

And because I suffer, you suffer with me.  Enjoy my custom-made, time-consuming, brilliant infographic about the hashtag #infographic’s frequency on Twitter. Illustrator, I no longer need you.

 

Ugly infographic on the hashtag #infographic

 

April 11, 2012 1

Simplicity isn’t Simple

By in Neat Visualizations

Today anyone with a small amount of motivation and Adobe Illustrator can learn to create a ridiculously gaudy information graphic.  That’s why it’s nice to see someone create an elegant, informative visualization that lets the story lead the design instead of the other way around.  My favorite site for these designs is HistoryShots, which continues to churn out the most beautiful data I’ve seen.  However, I have to give credit to xkcd.com, who created this graphic to put ocean and lake depths into perspective.  The simple design and carefully selected reference points (such as the drift between bow and stern of the Titanic as it sank) make this one of the most compelling and engaging displays of information I’ve come across in a long time.  Nice to see that someone out there still has some restraint.

Lakes and Oceans by XKCD

March 16, 2012 0

A few thoughts on iPhone 5, iPad mini, and iTV

By in Assorted Thoughts, General Information

It’s been fascinating to watch Apple build its arsenal of products in the last decade – not only because of their remarkable success, but because of the deliberate, disciplined way in which they did it.  Each built on the framework set by the last – the iPod mini and Nano relied on the same intuitive experience introduced in the original iPod, the iPhone leveraged the millions of people who understood how to buy music through iTunes, and the iPad rode the wave of iOS’s intuitive touch-based navigation.  The Macbook Air was created to show us what an iPad would look like if you attached a keyboard, and the Macbook Pro will no doubt soon evolve to a slighly larger Macbook Air (goodbye, optical drive!).

Another element of this evolution that may sometimes go unnoticed is the elegant way in which Apple has positioned each new product with respect to the others.  For the moment I’m going to focus solely on mobile products, and I’m going to take a leap and say that there are two basic dimensions on which to measure this positioning – screen size and price.

I’m using screen size as a proxy for a device’s ability to consume and create content.  The types of media one can consume or create increase with screen size. I can enjoy songs with a Shuffle (no screen) but I can consume movies, music, and apps with an iPhone.  The 10.7” iPad is built for media consumption but also introduces limited content creation capabilities.  As you shift to the 11” – 17” Macbooks your ability to create content increases dramatically.  Basically, the bigger the screen the more stuff you can do.

The other dimension is price.  It makes sense that as your ability to consume and create content increases, the device has more inherent value to you, and you would expect the price to increase.  As you can see in the plot below, Apple has mapped its devices’ ability to do stuff and the price you are willing to pay for that privilege in an extraordinarily consistent fashion (note that the data points are the dots underneath the pictures, not the pictures themselves):

Apple mobile device pricing vs screen size

This plot leads directly to a discussion about the gaping hole that exists between the iPhone and the iPad.  You can bet that Apple has this same diagram somewhere and has been planning to plug that gap for some time now.  This is where the rumored iPad Mini fits, and you can see that it makes perfect sense.  I’m guessing Steve Jobs wasn’t being entirely honest when he said he didn’t think that the size offered a good experience.  It might not be as good as the experience you get with an iPad, but you’re going to gain a little in portability and pay a little less.  In fact, you could argue that it has already proven to work, in a more limited fashion, on what I would consider the only other legitimate “tablet” product on the market – the Amazon Kindle:

Apple mobile pricing vs screen size, with Amazon Kindle comparison

The Kindle, even the Kindle Fire, clearly doesn’t offer the same capabilities as the iPad – particularly in content creation.  But it represents the best in content consumption in the 5”-8” screen sizes, as it is small enough to carry most places but big enough and capable enough to comfortably watch a movie or play a game like Angry Birds.  Apple would obviously be crazy to cede this territory to Amazon and, if the recent rumors are true, they aren’t planning on it.

The great thing about this chart is that it allows us to very easily make some guesses on iPad mini pricing.  Given that the current iPod Touch (3.5” screen) is priced between $200 and $400, and the iPad (10.7” screen) is priced between $400 and $900, I would bet that the iPad Mini will start at either $250 or $300 with three models of varying storage capacity.  $250 would keep it more competitive with the Kindle Fire, but I’m not sure Apple will be willing to stomach the margins at that price.  So, my estimate is that the iPad Mini comes in at prices of $300, $400, and $500 for the wifi only versions, and $400, $500, and $600 for those with cellular capabilities.

Similarly, rumors suggest that Apple has been working an a new iPhone with a larger screen.  Given the size of the gap between the iPhone and iPad in their current lineup, Apple can easily pull this off while leaving the iPhone 4s, measuring at 3.5”, at the $100 price point and the iPhone 4 for free.  My prediction for the iPhone 5 (or perhaps The New iPhone) is that Apple moves as far away from the 4s as they can without making a stupidly large phone.  I think the sweet spot is a screen size of 4.65”, or similar to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.  For price, they’ll stick to their tradition of maintaining the same pricing as the last generation:  $200, $300, and $400.

Putting it all together, and by the end of 2012, this is what the spectrum of Apple mobile products looks like – all connected by iCloud, running similar software, and supported by the largest ecosystem of content consumption opportunities in the world.  Not bad:

Apple mobile pricing vs screen size with iPhone 5 and iPad Mini

Let’s bring Apple’s non-mobile devices back into the fold and eliminate the devices that are primarily used for content creation, the MacBooks.  It’s easy to ask the same question that Apple inevitably did:  where to next?  The answer is simple – having solved the problems of personal consumption and creation, move right on the x-axis to bigger screens intended for multi-person consumption.  The following chart presents a simplified view of the opportunities that might exist for Apple when they go beyond 17”:

Apple product opportunities beyond 17"

This is where it gets a bit tricky.  The dramatic decrease in the cost of televisions for a given screen size has significantly reduced the market for televisions in the 20” – 35” range.  I would imagine the vast majority of televisions purchased in the last year were between 40” and 50”.  If I was Apple, that’s the spot I would target first:

Apple pricing vs screen size, including iTV and AppleTV

My prediction is that the iTV will come in three sizes:  37”, 42”, and 46” for $999, $1,399, and $1,799.  Moreover,   I expect that they will use mid-range LCD panels in the first generation of iTV and charge a 20% price premium compared to other manufacturers with similar technology.  I say this because:

  1. I think Apple has realized that the difference between the best and average displays has narrowed considerably, particularly for the average consumer.
  2. Apple is still a relatively risk-averse company, and using the latest technology (think the television equivalent of a retina display) would cost far more in production and R&D costs for an unproven product in the marketplace.  If or when the iTV succeeds, they’ll introduce a high-end unit with improved technology.
  3. Apple loves its margins.  High end displays will cut into those margins if they want to price the television competitively.

The question becomes whether Apple will offer enough in this package to justify the 20% premium.  Recall that there is already a product on the market called AppleTV which will connect any old flat screen to the Apple ecosystem for $100, and I don’t expect this product to get killed off.  Think of it as a teaser product, an easy way to test the waters before diving in headfirst.  I have no doubt this is why Apple has priced the unit so aggressively – they’re simply building demand for the inevitable television.

I do believe that Apple will provide a device that justifies the cost, and here is why.  Remember when Steve Jobs presented the original iPhone?  He prefaced the introduction by saying he was introducing three devices – a music player, a phone, and an internet connectivity device.  Apple is going to use the exact same strategy with iTV, except they’re going to introduce the world’s best television, a home video communication device, and a new gaming console.

Let’s start with the television.  Three things are certain.  The UI, of course, will be trademark Apple – simple, intuitive, elegant, and seamlessly integrating DVR, cable television, Blu-Ray, etc.  The television design will be drop-dead sexy in its simplicity, likely in a similar unibody aluminum casing as the Macbook line.  It will also, as rumored, integrate Siri for voice navigation.  I have some doubts as to how useful this will be, but I think the natural language processing will make it more useful than the novelty that you find on the Xbox.

There is one additional feature I’m hoping for, though I really don’t expect it.  I hope that Apple does something incredibly innovative with the remote control.  I’d love to see at minimum an entry-level iPod Touch included as the remote.  It’s a great way to cross-sell newcomers into Apple’s mobile products.  Even better, I’d like to see an entirely new touch screen device that is the same size as the iPod Touch but even thinner, as the storage requirements would be nil and batter consumption low.  Unfortunately, I imagine we’ll actually just get the nice little aluminum remote they deliver with an AppleTV.

Let’s talk about the iTV as a video communication device.  I expect the iTV to have a built in HD-capable camera for video conferencing, and I think people are dramatically underestimating the importance of this feature.  Imagine you are watching Monday Night Football.  Your wife, on a business trip and about to head to bed in her hotel room, initiates a FaceTime session.  Based on your preferences, the television either:

  1. Gradually reduces volume to mute while shrinking the game to picture-in-picture size
  2. Pauses the game and immediately begins recording on an internal flash drive so you can pick up where you left off when your conversation is finished, intelligently skipping commercials until you catch up to the live stream.

Your wife’s video stream occupies the majority of the screen and you and the kids are able to say goodnight together without reaching for the phone, grabbing your iPad, or flipping open your MacBook.  I believe Apple is looking to fundamentally change the way we communicate by making video calling a simple, intimate, and expressive experience.  Of course, there will always be a way to shut off the camera and leave the audio running if you happen to be in your pajamas.

Lastly, Apple will present the device as home for the next generation of gaming.  The most recent updates to the AppleTV interface reveal that Apple is clearly planning to accommodate  apps in their future television devices, and games will be the obvious first choice for these applications.  They’re likely already working with a game developer to prepare a sexy demo for the keynote.

These games won’t have graphics to compare to the latest stand-alone game consoles, but they will only be a click and short download away from use with a range of input device options from an iPod touch, an iPad (mini), or a standalone controller Apple will sell you at a nice high margin.  If you’re a game developer, you’ve suddenly gained access to an entirely new market that is already accustomed to purchasing through the Apple ecosystem – for a 30% cut, of course.  I leave open the small chance that Apple will collaborate somehow with Nintendo in this space – possiblye  by compatibility with Wii controllers and games, or maybe just a set of popular Nintendo games among the first announced.

To be sure, televisions are a competitive market and there are many points at which Apple could make a wrong move.  However, I believe the executives at the major television manufacturers are vastly underestimating Apple’s ability to leverage the iTunes/iCloud ecosystem to deliver a better value proposition that the current offering.  Consider this recent quote from Samsung’s AV manager, Chris Moseley:

“TVs are ultimately about picture quality. Ultimately. How smart they are…great, but let’s face it that’s a secondary consideration. The ultimate is about picture quality and there is no way that anyone, new or old, can come along this year or next year and beat us on picture quality,” Moseley told Pocket-lint. “So, from that perspective, it’s not a great concern but it remains to be seen what they’re going to come out with, if anything.”

Compare that to a few now-famous quotes from another Apple product launch:

 “We believe there is enough evidence to suggest Apple will launch such a device. In our view, the appearance of the iPhone (or something like it) poses little risk to RIM’s business.”

Chris Umiastowski, TD Securities

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

                Ex-Palm CEO Ed Colligan 

It’s like they all belong to some crazy self-denial, when-all-else-fails-rely-on-the-tech-specs club.  What these guys didn’t realize then, and what apparently Mr. Moseley is having a tough time processing now, is that Apple isn’t selling a phone or a television.  Apple has rarely competed on specs, because usually the specs aren’t that great.  Apple will compete by selling a single, elegant medium for media consumption, communication, gaming, and who knows what else once the developer ecosystem gets rolling.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the first quadcopter dogfighting game, where each quadcopter is equipped with a video camera and AirPlay.

Apple doesn’t sell a product, it sells solutions.  Chris’s “picture quality” will always be important to some subset of videophiles, just like there is a subset of the population that requires $5,000 speakers and $60,000 performance-tuned BMWs.  Like the PC industry of the last decade, parity has been reached in television technology for the average consumer.  Most of us can’t tell yu the difference between 120Hz and 240Hz, and frankly we don’t care.  We just want a nice looking device that makes it easy to record Castle, chat with grandma, and play Angry Birds.

I’m not sure where Apple will turn after the television market.  They’ll certainly have a nice set of TV iterations that improve the screen and other functionality, and that should sustain them for a few years.  I have a gut feeling that Apple still has its sights set on the education market and may begin working on the gap between personal consumption devices like the iPad (10”) and group consumption devices like the iTV (37”).  My best guess is something like a folding, two-panel tablet (one side for content, the other side for notes, each 10.7”).  For some reason, I just don’t believe that the most recent textbook announcement from Apple was nearly as far as Steve wanted to go.

None of the above is rocket science, I certainly don’t have any inside information, and I’m basically just making educated guesses, but it’s always fun to pull a few data points and think about the possibilities.  I’m looking forward to seeing how accurate I am come fall, when I expect both the television and the iPhone 5 (the New iPhone?) to be introduced.

March 10, 2012 0

Mr. Wolfram, I bow to your data

By in Neat Visualizations

When I created My Working Life, I thought I had collected a pretty good data set on my work activities.  Then, I saw this blog post from Stephen Wolfram.  The man recorded every single keystroke he typed for “a number of years” – over 100 million keystrokes.  What I admire isn’t just the fact that Mr. Wolfram stored this data, but the elegant way he visualizes the data within this post.  It’s incredible to see just how productive one man (albeit, one brilliant man), can be in any given 24-hour period, while still maintaining a two hour dinner window with his family.  Something tells me he doesn’t watch a lot of television.

Read Mr. Wolfram’s post here.

Stephen Wolfram's Tracked Life

 

December 14, 2011 0

Using indexing to avoid the lie factor – Fox News Chart redesign

By in Experiments in Info Design, Not So Great Information Design

Ran across an interesting article on a graphic shown on Fox News regarding unemployment under President Obama.  Here’s the original chart:

Now, it’s probably just a data input mistake, but notice how the 8.6% on the far right isn’t exactly where it should be.  Here’s a couple horizontal lines to help you out:

It’s not really that this bothers me much; mistakes happen.  What I didn’t like was moveon.org’s redesign:

which they claim is more “honest”.  Unfortunately, they forgot about a little thing called the Lie Factor (a la Tufte).  In this particular chart, the most recent drop in unemployment appears to be about 33% in the chart, when in fact it’s only about 4.5% (0.4% change on a base of 9%).

This is a problem I run into frequently – when the chart creator is most interested in showing the change in a variable that starts at a high base. Another common example is a quality rate that varies between 99% and 100% – how do you determine where to set the Y-axis start and end points without skewing the data?

My suggestion is to think about the question you’re really trying to answer.  In the chart above, the author is most interested in the change in unemployment during the Obama administration.  The key word there is change - the relative start and end points aren’t nearly as important as whether it went up or down.  This is a great time to use indexing to eliminate the lie factor and tell an honest story.  Here’s a quick example using the data above, but indexing the unemployment rate back to January of 2009 when Obama was inaugurated:

This chart tells a slightly different story than either the original or the redesign.  Obama had a rough couple of years, but in 2011 it looks like there has actually been some progress.  Still, the unemployment rate is 10% higher now than when he took office (note:  I’m not arguing causality here – my economics professors can rest easy).

This redesign isn’t perfect, and it would be difficult to show only this chart in a larger conversation about unemployment, but if you’re looking to show the change in the unemployment rate during Obama’s presidency, I would argue that this is a more effective way to do so than either the flawed original or the deceitful redesign.

August 25, 2011 0

Displaying Categorical Information: The Patents of Steve Jobs (via NY Times)

By in Neat Visualizations

The New York Times has really out-done themselves this time, with a beautiful and highly informative look at the patents Steve Jobs has been assigned to over the past thirty years.  I’m not even as interested in the content as in the visually striking, well-organized, and easy-to-navigate interface.  To think that it was completed in the day following Steve’s resignation is equally impressive.  The categorization of patents makes the information accessible, and the images are both informative and visually engaging.  The pictures afford clicking and, as you would expect, display more information about the particular patent in question.  Finally, the summaries on the left give the appropriate amount of information to describe each category and highlight an interesting patent within the category.

I also like it because it reminds me of McMaster-Carr‘s home page, which is also a beautiful display of categorical information.

New York Times, the Patents of Steve Jobs

 

 

July 28, 2011 0

From the NY Times: Comparing the Deficit Reduction Plans

By in Neat Visualizations

Just a very quick post about a nice interactive graphic in at nytimes.com (who happens to be, in my opinion, the leader in informative, clear, and *usually* unbiased representations of quantitative data).  It shows how the deficit reduction plans have changed over the past week and how the plans of various parties differ.

The point I want to make about this particular graphic is that no graphs were used, and I consider that a good thing.  Many publications would be tempted to add some silly pie chart showing only two numbers, or a wasteful cutesy pictograph with green dollar bills.  In this case, none of these were necessary and if present would have distracted from the simplicity and clarity of the figures.  I also appreciate how explanations are muted but in close proximity to the data they are describing.  A clean, balanced look at the chaos that is currently ensuing in Washington.

Don’t be afraid to use numbers to describe data – they can be quite effective, when there aren’t many of them.

Comparing the Deficit Reduction Plans - Interactive Graphic from NYTimes

July 10, 2011 0

Using Mechanical Turk to Generate Random Numbers: Episode 1 – The Jerks

By in Experiments in Info Design

Wait, what?  Who would use Amazon’s crowd-sourcing marketplace to generate random numbers?  A fine question!  Two types of people – those with a rock-solid faith in the abilities of mankind, and those that get into discussions in a Google cafe about the likelihood of certain numbers (like primes or perfect squares) being over or under-represented in the resulting sample if you would do such a thing.  I’ll pay you $0.025 if you guess which one I am correctly.

Why $0.025?  Well, because that’s what I paid my helpful mechanical turkers, on average, to complete this task:

“ Just send me a single random number between 1 and 100 (including numbers 1 and 100).”

If you’ve ever used Mechanical Turk, you know that it’s pretty much a breeze to set up such a task, and I was able to do so in just a couple minutes.   My first intention was to pay 1,000 people $.01 to complete the task.  So I published the request, sat back, and waited for the joyful flow of random numbers to hit my screen.

Unfortunately, I underestimated either the number of people willing to make 1 cent for 30 seconds of work or the number of people on Mechanical Turk.  After seven hours I had only received 53 responses.  After 24, I had 165.  I didn’t really feel like waiting another 8 days to get to 1,000, so I decided to add a little flavor to the experiment.

Instead of asking 1,000 people to complete the task for $.01, I would c0llect buckets of 100 replies, raising the reward by 1 cent for each bucket.  I had my original 165, and over the next week, submitted requests at $.02,$.03,$.04, and $.05.  I thought it would be interesting to see if the accuracy or response rate changed as I increased the payoff.

After about a week, the experiment was completed.  Here’s a timeline of the first 100 responses I got for each project request, starting on Saturday, June 04 and concluding sometime in the morning of the following Saturday (you’re need to click through so you can see a larger version):

Mechanical Turk Random Number Requests - Overall Project Timeline

Response Rates

You’ll notice that the various projects took different amounts of time to get to 100 replies.  I expected at least an upward trend in response rate as the reward increased, but that wasn’t the case.  Here is a time-normalized view of the same data:

Mechanical Turk Random Number Replies, Time-Normalized

From this view, it looks like the response rate decreased as the reward increased.  This was unexpected, but clearly there are a lot of outside factors that could have impacted these rates.  I didn’t start the requests at the same time of day, I have no idea what other jobs were available for Turkers at the time of publishing, and Amazon may mess with the prioritization of projects.  But, for completeness, here is a table/plot of the average time between responses for each reward:

Mean Response Rate between Mechanical Turk Responses

So, I have absolutely no idea why this would be the case.  I’m debating ways I can run this experiment that might produce better results, such as increased the reward increment, starting the projects simultaneously or at the same day and time of the week, etc.  Until then, I’ll have to claim that in this reward range, there is no obvious increase in the response rate when you offer to pay a bit more.

Errors!

In the timeline charts above, you’ll notice some ugly red marks.  Yes, these are the people that somehow failed to earn their Abrahams.  Despite the seemingly simple task, about 5% of responses were incorrect.  5%!  I might expect 5% of people to incorrectly answer questions that involve some sort of mathematical operation (addition, perhaps), but to simply give me a number?   I am saddened.

After looking through the 33 replies I rejected, I have decided to group the people that submitted these replies into two groups:

  1. Those who have trouble with directions.  20 of the 33 rejected responses included somewhere between two and a thousand numbers between 1 and 100.  Not a single number, but multiple.  Maybe they thought they would get a bonus for extra effort?  Interestingly enough, not one answer came from a random number generator – most were patterns of numbers (though sadly, no Fibonacci).
  2. Jerks.  13 of the 595 people who submitted replies are jerks.  Does 12,900 look like a number between 1 and 100?  How about “23556235845101000000000000000000000000000000?” .   No, it does not.  You, sir, are a jerk.  And I will not pay you!

Here is a summary of the errors by reward, for those that are interested:

Table of Mechanical Turk Response Errors

 

…sigh.

Episode 1 Wrap-Up

Well, I learned two things.  First, I didn’t really think through the set-up of my experiment very well.  But for less than $20, I can always give it another shot and I’m open to suggestions.  Second, 2.2% of Mechanical Turkers are jerks, with a fairly tight confidence interval around that number.  More or less than the real world?  We’ll never know.

Stay tuned for Episode 2: Distributed Terror, where I’ll look at the distribution of response rates (are they Poisson-distributed?  I really hope so…) and the actual distribution of Turker responses from 1 to 100. How uniform are they?  Which numbers were most p0pular?  Which were shunned by the Turk community?  Can we somehow tie this all back to the golden ratio?  These and other questions will be answered.

July 7, 2011 0

Limit Redundant Information in Tables

By in Experiments in Info Design

There are two basic ways to present quantitative information – in a chart or in a table.  We often focus on the proper design of charts, probably because they are the more engaging of the two presentation formats.  However, table design is a fascinating subject that deals with how we can quickly perceive structure and differences between nominal values.  One of the tenets of table design is to use redundancy with intent, and eliminate redundancy that simply clutters the message.  For example, consider the table below, taken from this article on performance enhancements in Mac OS X:

Mac OS X Performance Improvements Table

Along with some relatively obvious flaws like color intensity selection, alignment, labeling, and fill, one of the biggest problems with this table is that it contains a large amount of redundant information.  In the tables above, I count about 140 distinct pieces of information (words or numbers).  Many of these words are repeated – things like the test names, the phrase “Standard Graphics Speed Tests”, etc.  Besides presenting more information than is necessary for the reader, it obfuscates the design of the experiment.  For example, it isn’t obvious that the two trials used similar tests (Cinebench 11.5, Xbench 1.3) until the reader actually reads all of the test names.  Similarly, it isn’t obvious where the differences lie either – the (2x) and (8x) for Cinebench rendering are hidden behind redundant text, making them easy to miss and false assumptions to be made (e.g. the Mac Pro and the Macbook Pro both used 8x Cinebench rendering).

Consider the redesign below.  I was able to reduce the number of pieces of information to ~95, a 33% reduction from the original table design.  I eliminated as much redundancy as I could and used spatial proximity and a logical table structure to reveal the design of the experiment – two different computers, many similar tests.  A reader can ascertain all of this information at a glance instead of reading through gobs of text.  I also took one liberty with the data — I highlighted “significant” changes as opposed to those that appeared to be just noise, drawing the reader’s attention to the tests that showed the most change.

Redesigned Table with Reduced Redundancy

When designing a table, remember that the very structure of the table is a tool that you can use to convey organization, whether it be an experiment design, parent-child relationships (notice the indented lines), or similarity.  Eliminate redundancy when it obfuscates these messages, and use it to highlight important messages (notice the redundant color selection between the title of the chart and the column labels).