Data Visualisation Analysis

Analysis of a Data Visualisation – Top 500 Passwords Design & Concept: David McCandless Code & additional design: Omid Kashan

What story does it tell?

This data visualisation reveals various aspects of 500 of the most popular used passwords.

How does it tell it?

It tells this story by sorting the passwords into a range of colour-coded categories and then arranging them on a scatter plot with the axes “Popularity”, “Rank”, “A-Z” & “0-9”. The strength of the password is shown by the size of the text itself.

Does it allow for different levels of interrogation that can be seen or used on the part of the reader? For example, can they drill down to discover more detail?

This visualisation allows for some interrogation, in that you can filter by the various categories and make comparisons that way, but because it is such a simple concept this is about the extent of it.

Are you able to create multiple stories from it? If so, what are they?

The data in this visualisation is very basic and straight forward. As a result, the only stories that can be taken away from it are those that are directly referred to, such as the popularity and strength of the categories and the passwords within them.

What can you say about the visual design – layout, colour, typography and visualisation style?

Overall, this visual design of this data visualisation is as basic as the data itself. There are very simple, sans-serif typefaces used throughout and the colours are all quite muted. Although it appears slightly dull, it does make for a harmonious and consistent result.

What improvements would you suggest?

Although it’s a simple visualisation, there are a few things that could be changed to improve its usability. Firstly, there isn’t enough distinction between some of the colours of the categories, e.g. “Password/Access”, “Sport” and “Truly Random” are barely distinguishable. Also more interesting conclusions could be drawn if the axes were changed. Rather than having “Popularity” on the y axis and “A-Z” on the x axis, it would be interesting to compare “Popularity” with “Password Strength”, which is currently shown by the size of the text. It’s such a chaotic graphic that sorting the passwords alphabetically doesn’t seem necessary.

In addition to the scatter plot, there’s a bar graph that shows the popularity of the categories themselves. There are two main issues with this. The first being an inconsistency with the colour of the “Truly Random” category. In the first graphic is it orange, whereas here it appears black. Also, the percentages are only shown on three categories, when it would be easier to compare them if they were shown on all of them.

Where does the data come from? Comment on its source.

The data comes from a Google Document which compiles data from a range of sources. Some of the source links don’t work so it is possible the data isn’t completely reliable. Sources: data breaches, Xato.net, TroyHunt.com Data: http://bit.ly/KIB_Passwords

Top 500 passwords. (n.d.). Retrieved August 21, 2016, from http://web.princeton.edu/sites/writing/Writing_Center/WCWriting Resources.htm

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