Introducing Visualizations 2.0
So What's New?
Ease of Use
We set out in this release to make every part of the configuration screens easier to understand. For each tab in our set of preferences, we've either streamlined the set of required fields and/or given the user a set of tools and information to use as a reference.
For example, take the query writing process. In the previous version, users needed to enter their EQL essentially "without a net". There was no config-side validation, no visual help with simple constructs such as the field names available in a view. It was hard, if not impossible, to get things right without some back and forth or three different browser tabs open. In the AVF 2.0, the EQL authoring process looks like this:
The user no longer has to remember field names and an at-a-glance reference showing display names, attribute keys and types is front and center. In addition, there is now on the spot validation of the query (upon hitting Save) to help diagnose any syntactical errors that may be present.
Throughout the configuration experience, we've made things easier to use. But how does the AVG 2.0 help the user through the full process of configuring a visualization (read on).
To that end, we set out to make it easy for developers to guide their users in configuring the data elements (queries, CSS, etc.) that provide the backing for a visualization. It was apparent very early on that, in many cases, building an advanced visualization requires some advanced capabilities. This can be illustrated in the famous "Wealth and Health of Nations" visualization that we call the Animated Timeline:
It's a really cool visualization with a nice combination of interactivity and dynamic playback. However, the first time we encountered it, it took us a moment to wrap our heads around questions such as "how many metrics?, how many group bys?". It takes a fair amount of understanding to pull off generating the data for such a complex visualization*.
This includes the visualization itself....
and even Custom Preferences of your own design.
Simply adding description attributes to the XML configuration for a given visualization type allows the developer to provide the power user with all the help they need.
*For the record, the Animated Timeline uses 3 metrics (X, Y, size of the bubble) and 3 group by attributes (Detail, Color and Time).
Pruning the Hedges
Frankly, the first time we released this offering, we tried to make it too configurable and too open. Call it the software framework corollary of "Four Drafts".
We're also making a concerted effort to bring more developers into the fold. To that end, while we don't make our framework available for download without some agreements in place, our Installation Guide and AVF Developer's Guide can be found on our Downloads page and are available to registered users. To register at Bird's Eye View, simply click here or use the registration link on the right. The most exciting part of the whole documentation set (talk about an oxymoron) is a new section of the Developer's Guide called the Cookbook. It's a set of small, simple examples that allow developers to quickly come up to speed on the framework and start writing visualizations that much faster (15 minutes). If you're interested in learning more, don't hesitate to comment below or drop us a line at product [at] ranzal.com.