Visualisation Analysis #1
The first is a map of UK fuel shortages; ‘The Petrol Panic Mapped’. The map works because it is clear, simple and easy to use. The map is interactive, giving the user control and allowing them to display the information in the way that best suits them, prioritising data that they find most interesting. It also makes viewing the map a more entertaining experience, keeping users on the page for longer.
Users can zoom in by clicking on the map and can move the image around to find the dot which marks the petrol garage closest to them. Clicking on it then opens up a new window which contains information about that garage. This information gives the location, postcode, users’ experience, what they saw and the date and time. Many of these are detailed accounts of what is going on at a particular garage. By hiding the information until users choose to click on it the map succeeds in containing a large amount of information in a clear way that does not overload the user.
At the top of the map you can change the date and thus see how the incident has built up over the course of a few days. By doing this it becomes apparent that the difficulties people have experienced at petrol garages have gradually become worse. Users can choose to view the image as either a map or a satellite illustration. The satellite view is more striking, visually, and the colours work well together. However the map view contains more detailed information about location. The user is thus given control to create the image as they would like to see it and alter it if they so choose.
A further way in which the visualisation creates interactivity and makes the user feel that they have been part of the process in creating the map, is the personalised nature of the descriptions of events at each garage. The stand first says ‘you’ve been helping us map the chaos on garage forecourts.’ The map is thus largely created by the public and users can alter and transform the finished image, giving them ownership and control of the visualisation. This is one example of how newspapers create a community around their product, with which they listen and interact.
The data is better presented and digested using a visualisation, because large amounts of information are made clear and comprehensible. The user is also able to see the ‘big picture’; of how the crisis has affected different parts of the country and of how it has developed over a number of days. The user is given control, which adds to the feeling of community. The interactive elements make the visualisation more entertaining and satisfactory; users must undertake a process of exploring the visualisation to find the information, rather than being told it, as would be the case with text.