Would you buy a pair of glasses with lenses that were so scratched up you couldn’t see through them, even if the frames looked cool? Not if you want to get from point A to point B without injury. So why would you ever buy charting software that transforms simple information into a completely unreadable display? Yesterday, GreenPoint, a self-proclaimed “leader in enterprise-wide visualization solutions,” issued a press release announcing the latest release of WebCharts3D. Even this product’s name advertises its dysfunction. Adding a third dimension of depth to bars, lines, and pies obscures the data. To this GreenPoint adds more dysfunction by making the objects in charts transparent (for example, see-through bars), resulting in a maze of lines and angles that must be unraveled to make sense of the data.
Try to decipher the patterns and values in the following chart. Come on, give it your best shot. Even if I offered a cash prize to anyone who managed to come close, it wouldn’t be worth your effort to try, because you’d be forced to use the prize money to pay a doctor to fix the damage done to your eyes.
Here are a few more examples:
Disinformation in all shapes and sizes. If this is what you’re after, then don’t hesitate to buy this product. If, however, you want your charts to actually communicate information, look for a product that proudly advertises charts that are easy to read.
Just to be fair, most but not all of this product’s charts are transparent. For example, here’s a radar chart that you could use to compare the performance of three products across eight years of time. Did you know that time is circular and that in the year 2007 we have returned to where we began in 1999? Despite this revelation, I’m finding it hard to relinquish my notion that time is linear and my desire to see this information in a simple line graph.
WebCharts3D is not alone in its ability to obscure otherwise clear and simple data, but when a product this bad issues a press release, it’s hard to ignore.
P.S. For the benefit of Ryan, who has posted a response to this blog topic, and readers who wish to see a more comprehensive sample of the charts that are available in WebChart3D, here are all six versions of the Step Chart that appear in the sample gallery.