The visual world is extraordinarily complex. For example a quick scan of my desk reveals hand-written notes, dry erase markers and USB thumb-drive. While I recognize these objects rapidly, I experience them at a basic visual perceptual level long before I can label or describe them. This low level of perception is what is called preattentive processing, or visual processing that occurs without deliberate attention. Preattentive processing can be used to create dashboards that easily communicate extraordinary amount of information per pixel and need very little effort to understand. Download our eBook, "Dashboards: Take a closer look at your data".
At CAN, as needed we use the visualization software Tableau to create reports and dashboards for our clients. Also, because Tableau is capable of handling large amounts of data very quickly, we’ve started using it to explore data visually during the data discovery stage of each project. We use Tableau to check the quality of data, find outliers, and get a sense of the properties of a data set, such as dispersion, central tendency, clustering, etc., before we apply statistical analysis or build predictive models. A Tableau feature, especially useful for exploring data, are Reference Lines.
This blog post explains a few ways that CAN uses Tableau to explore a data set.