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Evaluating the Effect of Style in Information Visualization

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5 Author(s)

This paper reports on a between-subject, comparative online study of three information visualization demonstrators that each displayed the same dataset by way of an identical scatterplot technique, yet were different in style in terms of visual and interactive embellishment. We validated stylistic adherence and integrity through a separate experiment in which a small cohort of participants assigned our three demonstrators to predefined groups of stylistic examples, after which they described the styles with their own words. From the online study, we discovered significant differences in how participants execute specific interaction operations, and the types of insights that followed from them. However, in spite of significant differences in apparent usability, enjoyability and usefulness between the style demonstrators, no variation was found on the self-reported depth, expert-rated depth, confidence or difficulty of the resulting insights. Three different methods of insight analysis have been applied, revealing how style impacts the creation of insights, ranging from higher-level pattern seeking to a more reflective and interpretative engagement with content, which is what underlies the patterns. As this study only forms the first step in determining how the impact of style in information visualization could be best evaluated, we propose several guidelines and tips on how to gather, compare and categorize insights through an online evaluation study, particularly in terms of analyzing the concise, yet wide variety of insights and observations in a trustworthy and reproducable manner.

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Visualization and Computer Graphics, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:18 ,  Issue: 12 )