Trellis Displays Using OnePager

We often see very complex visuals, built by our users, that include just about everything they intend to communicate, all in one place.

They’ve likely created the complexity either because it’s always been done that way, or it’s what they were asked to produce (not necessarily their fault), though data visualization best practices will tell us that too many dimensions of information in one place will all blend together into an aggregate.

The kitchen sink chart above is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Even with the small number of tasks and milestones it contains, if I add several dimensions to the visual (Phase/swimlanes, Location/rows, Status/shape, Resource Names/color, and Risk/border color), each of those elements cannot be easily visually separated and absorbed. In fact, the entire chart becomes utterly confusing. Even with a legend, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to consume.

One of the benefits of using OnePager is the ability to begin to parse your data out into multiple visuals, instead of stuffing everything into a single chart. In Stephen Few’s book, Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis, he discusses the Trellis Display as one option to avoid cluttered data visualizations.

A Trellis Display is arranged horizontally or vertically, where simple data visualizations are tiled. Each graph should differ in terms of the data it displays, retain an equal size and shape, and be organized logically to provide the consumer with context, as their eyes move from one visual to another.

An expert might suggest that Gantt charts in a trellis display are like attempting to put a square peg in a round hole. However, with a quick example, you can see how it works.

The trick is to keep the tasks and milestones in the chart the same. Spacial reorganization is what we’re using for our dimensions of information, and this seems to be OK. However, there will likely be a tipping point where the volume of shapes dictates that vertical organization of the tasks and milestones must also be constant in the trellis in order to avoid producing confusion.

Here is another example where vertical organization is constant from chart to chart, and we’re parsing out the other dimensions in their original form, as displayed in the Kitchen Sink, just one-at-a-time.

I’m sure you get the idea here, and I hope you play with it.

You’re not limited to a single page, either. If you need to put your visuals in different pages, back-to-back, because the data can’t all fit on a single page, so be it. Even though it might not be a Trellis, it should still do the job better than if you had only presented the kitchen sink.

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About Jay

Jay carries with him fourteen years of project management experience within the cable, telecom, construction, software development, and energy industries. The spectrum of projects and programs that Jay has managed throughout his career is broad and deep, enabling him to help clients implement OnePager software in a multitude of applications.

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