A makeover of an ILTA graph, explaining the improvements in visualization

Legal managers who create data-analysis graphs should strive to make those graphs effective communicators.  Let’s pause for a teaching moment.  I wrote a post about the 2016 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey and its question about areas of practice where respondents foresaw AI software penetrating.   

The plot in the upper right portion of page 13 that summarizes the answers to that question could be improved in several ways.


The bar colors are nothing but distracting eye-candy, since the colors do not convey any additional information.  If a couple of bars were colored to indicate something, that would be a different matter.

Second, it was good to add the percentages at the end of the bars, rather than force readers to look down at the horizontal axis and estimate them; however, if the graph states each bar’s percentage, the horizontal axis figures are unnecessary.  Even more, the vertical grey lines can be banished.

Third, most people care less about an alphabetical ordering of the bars than they do about comparisons among the applications on percentages.  It would have been more informative to order the bars in the conventional longest-at-the-top to shortest-at-the-bottom style.

As a kudo, it was good to put the application areas on the left rather than the bottom.  Almost always there is more room on the left than in the narrower bands at the bottom.


A makeover using the same data cures these problems and displays a few other visualization improvements.  The new plot removes the boundary lines around the plot, which gives a cleaner look.  It also enlarges the font on the percentages relative to the font on the applications, since those figures are likely to be the ones that readers care most about and want most emphasized.  Two final tweaks: the application names are on one line, and the axes have no “tick marks”, the tiny lines that mark the mid-point of an axis interval but that rarely add any value.

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