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Painting the Web by Shelley Powers

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Chapter 15. Like Peanut Butter and Jelly: Data and Graphics

The Web is full of imagery. Images serve as buttons and bars; show the world around us; sell uxs homes and cars; make us laugh and cry, and, on occasion, irritate us. Most importantly, images inspire us. When we add web design, a good 50% of the content we see through the Web could be considered “web graphics.”

Much of the imagery is static, mainly because we’ve not really pushed the boundaries of our use of dynamic imagery. We might put up a simple bar chart created through Flash, but most of our data representations are created using Photoshop, GIMP, Illustrator, or any number of tools, saved as our old friends JPEG, GIF, or PNG, and embedded into a page, to remain there until replaced when the data represented is outdated.

Text in web pages isn’t statically rigid. Text is ever changing—words replaced, errors corrected, and thoughts reorganized. Why, then, must all our imagery be frozen, for all time?

It doesn’t have to be frozen. Visual representation of data isn’t a replacement but an enhancement. It’s a way to provide a look at data that can be absorbed at a glance. It’s not a replacement, because not everyone who accesses your pages is capable of appreciating the visualization. It is an alternative view—a rich expression of both a practical data application and creativity.

Years ago, while working with the data modeling group at Boeing, we experimented with visual data modeling tools, as well as text-based management ...

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