We have seen a lot of sparklines over the last few years. They’re one of the most used high-density charts out there and, if applied properly, they can be a killer feature of any dashboard or report.
The sheer amount of information that can be condensed into sparklines makes them a viable resource to provide a quick at-a-glance story of the evolution of a measurement.The best are the ones which provide additional context, like the normal range, filled with gray in the following charts:
But it wasn’t until I read Beautiful Evidence by sparklines inventor Edward Tufte, that I discovered that these charts were originally designed to be inserted within a text. Becoming datawords, a beautiful term:
If they’re not abused, datawords can be extremely helpful to illustrate points made in the text.
This reminded me of the explorable explanations and reactive documents by Bret Victor. A very clever way of inserting what-if explorations within a text. Test it below by clicking and dragging over the number of cookies:
I think datawords and explorable explanations (explorable datawords?) go together quite nicely. Don’t you?