Re-Viz-It: why I revamped my viz on the musical Hamilton

I love it when data folks are transparent about where they are coming from and how much progress they’ve done. It would be very easy to assume that “some people are natural and I will never manage it”.

This month, Iron Quest, the dataviz challenge to help practise for Tableau’s annual competition Iron Viz, is on the theme of Re-Viz-It, announced Sarah Bartlett on her blog: “we’re challenging you to re-visit an older viz from your portfolio and re-create it with the #IronViz scoring criteria in mind; design, storytelling and analysis.”

And since this is exactly what I did for Iron Viz, I thought I would share some thoughts about how and why I revisited my viz on the musical Hamilton’s motifs.

From this to that

Wait, isn’t it cheating to revamp an old viz and enter it for Iron Viz?

  • Iron Viz is not the reason I revamped this viz: Hamilton will celebrate its 7th (a magic number in the musical) anniversary in a couple of days and I really wanted this date to share again my love for the musical.
  • There is no rule in Iron Viz that states you need to create brand new content
  • For what it’s worth: I’ve seen the excellent work submitted for Iron Viz; since my topic is very niche and not general public (see my first blog on this viz here), I don’t think I stand a chance to end up in the qualifiers like last year. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be part of the collective effort.
  • More importantly, I hope the following blogpost will convince you I just didn’t lazily work on two things and posted for the sake of.

Ok so why did I revisited this viz?

I just don’t like it: I have mentioned that I wanted to revamp it last July here and I have been frustrated by it since I published it.

Things that bugged me the most:

  • Hard to comprehend
  • Too text heavy (I mean, it’s still text heavy but hey)
  • Design is bulky and at the same time, way too close to the official website of the musical (which is not heavy or bulky). I need to break free a bit
  • Font issues in Tableau public – see Judit Bekker’s guide on how to use fonts in Tableau
  • I didn’t know how to turn off highlighting
  • I didn’t know how to use parameter to create a progression timeline
  • Too many icons, too many colours. When you have so much text, you can’t have so much clutter.
  • Not even slightly easy to read on mobile
What do fashion and dataviz have in common? Source AZ quotes

What I’m happy with and kept:

  1. I’m ok with the fact that this is not a viz for the general public. It’s better to have watched Hamilton before reading this piece, and probably only 2% of my audience will read the whole section 2. I’m ok with that 😊
  2. I kept the funnel approach: an intro to the topic, a very detailed analysis and a sandbox where people can play and run their own research.

What I reworked:

  1. Shorter text. It doesn’t look like it, but I promise I ditched quite a lot!
  2. A better intro to the topic, with 2 charts, one easy to read (the jitterchart scatterplot) and an arc diagram.
  3. Better sign posting of the different charts
  4. Completely regrouped the data  differently, which was a lot of manual work no one needs me to describe!
  5. A lighter design – for instance, I already mentioned that the light yellowish background is to increases attentional focus since the viz topic is complex, and it is long to read.
  6. A long scrolling format, much easier to navigate in one go and to adapt in mobile
  7. Talking about mobile: there is no way to make the sandbox feature work because you cannot change the Parameter Font Size. I ditched it. I’m not saying the mobile version is good – but it’s out there, hopefully so that hardcore Hamilton fans get a sneak peek before jumping on a classic desktop 😊

Was it worth re-vizzing my work?

If I am counting on visits, or my productivity ratio: absolutely not. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? I re-vizzed because my initial viz bugged me. And this new one sparks more joy.

My tips if you are thinking of participating to the re-viz it IronQuest challenge:

  • Ask for constructive yet frank feedback: no point in beating around the bush, you need to know what to tackle first to prioritise your time
  • Ask feedback from different people: dataviz professionals, people that are scared by anything that looks more complicated than a bar chart, people into the topic, people who know nothing about the topic you are covering  
  • Keep a list of what worked well in your original version
  • For what didn’t work well: what was your intention? What were your constraints?

With that in mind, you’re gonna rock your IronQuest challenge!

Anne-Sophie  

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