Graph literacy and business intelligence: Investigating user understanding of dashboard data visualizations

S. Wakeling, P. Clough, J. Wyper, A. Balmain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is now commonly accepted that data visualizations offer a valuable means of communicating business intelligence to users. However, although much time and effort has been expended on developing rich dashboard interfaces and understanding the optimum design of different visualization types, less attention has been paid to graph literacy-- whether dashboard users can effectively understand these visualizations. We describe the results of a gamified study investigating user graph literacy in a range of comprehension levels for a variety of common dashboard data visualizations. Our results show that participants were more successful in understanding some visualizations than others. Those visualizations with which participants were least familiar tended to elicit the fewest correct answers. More surprising is the relatively poor performance of participants in answering questions relating to data presented in tabular form. We also observe that users remain confident in their ability to understand familiar visualizations even when their actual performance is poor. Perceived performance is more closely related to actual performance when familiarity is low. In both cases, vendors and managers should be aware of these effects and appropriately support the implementation of new visualizations while considering methods of ensuring accurate use of familiar ones. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR] .
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-19
Number of pages12
JournalBusiness Intelligence Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 07 Dec 2015


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