Starting Simple - adding value to static visualisation through simple interaction

Alan Dix
at time of writing
Staffordshire University
now Lancaster University

Geoffrey Ellis
School of Computing and Mathematics
Huddersfield University, UK.

Paper presented at AVI'98, Advanced Visual Interfaces, May 24-27, 1998. Castello Cinquecentesco, L'Aquila - ITALY.

Download draft paper as PDF (288Kb) or compressed postscript (1.1Mb).

Slides for the talk available as HTML or PowerPoint (7.8Mb)

Full reference:

A. Dix and G. Ellis (1998). Starting Simple - adding value to static visualisation through simple interaction . Proceedings of Advanced Visual Interfaces AVI98, Eds. T. Catarci, M. F. Costabile, G. Santucci and L. Tarantino. L'Aquila, Italy, ACM Press. pp. 124-134.

URL for related work:

Also see the interactive stacked histogram, an example of the principles in this paper.


Interactive visualisation has been one of the most exciting areas in HCI over recent years. The key term here is 'interactive', and in this paper we assert that virtually any static representation can become more powerful by the addition of simple interactive elements. This is demonstrated by adding interactivity to standard representations including stacked histograms, pie charts and scatter plots. We show how adding interactivity can help resolve many of the trade-offs inherent in static visualisations by allowing multiple options to be available and most importantly for them to be interactively related. Many years of creativity and effort have been invested in traditional generic and bespoke visualisations. Adding interactivity leverages this accumulated experience, however it adds an extra dimension.

keywords: information visualization, visual interaction, interactive graphics


1 Introduction and background
In which we establish that the heart of modern visualisation techniques is interaction and propose that interaction can be applied to any representation however simple.
2 Adding interaction
In which we look at some existing examples such as contour maps, tourist maps and Mac folders and also consider new representations such as dynamic stacked histograms, outliner PIE charts, multi-line graphs and scatter plots.
3 Beating the trade-offs
In which we see how traditional representations have to make trade-offs between various factors based on purpose and human visual powers, but that interaction can allow alternative representations and temporal fusion can add an extra dimension.
4 Kinds of interaction
In which we build a taxonomy of different kinds of interactivity during visualisation in order to make it easier to match requirements to techniques.
5 Applications and technology
In which we consider where we want interactive visualisation - different application areas, and how to achieve it - implementation techniques and issues.
6 Conclusions
In which we sum up that simple representations can be made more powerful by interaction and that we are generally on to a good thing.


Alan Dix 5/1/98