Better Graphs, Faster Typing: Try Them Today

Do you type well? I mean, do your thoughts flow naturally through your fingers or, on the contrary, your (low) typing skills come between your thoughts and your writing?

I don’t type fast enough, I look at the keyboard from time to time and I don’t follow some simple typing rules that would save me months of my life.

My question is, if the benefits of adhering to those rules are so obvious, why don’t I spend invest some time learning how to use them properly?

The more I think about it, the more I feel that the reasons behind this are the ones that also slow down the adoption of best practices in information visualization.

Recognize the problem

The major reason is, of course, to recognize and accept that there is a problem. If you are happy with the way you do things today, why would you change it? After learning how a specific task should be performed, just close that box in your life and move on, no need to reopen it, thank you. You are a two-finger typist and a pie chart designer, and that’s more than enough.

How do you deal with this? Too often we are irrational creatures, so the benefits must be so obvious that not taking action would be almost embarrassing (remember that inertia is one of the most powerful forces in the known universe). Unfortunately, you can promise to double the typing speed, but can’t offer a similar quantitative measure to sell the benefits of better charts.

Imagine that a new company is selling a two-finger typing concept instead of all ten (“you’ll get sexier fingers!”). Too absurd? Well, I bet they would make a good living out of it. That’s exactly what Microsoft, Dundas or Business Objects do in information visualization. And unlike typing, peer pressure and marketing budgets actually work against you.

Break Old Habits. Start Today

As Stephen Few often emphasizes, the basic rules of information visualization are not difficult. Learn them and start practicing (here are a few). Just like typing.

That’s what I am doing right now. This was the first post I wrote with my eyes closed (well, the draft version, anyway). It was painfully slow. That this can help my writing or my typing remains to be seen, but it seems a good method to avoid distractions and remain focused.

So, how many fingers do you use to create a chart? 🙂