Urban Metaphors For Data Visualization

Abhijeet Chavan's picture
Staff
VisitorVille is a website log analysis program that uses an graphical urban metaphor to visualize website traffic flow.
VisitorVille Screenshot
"A company's entire Web presence is seen as an urban or suburban neighborhood, with each individual Web page presented as a building. The more visitors on a site, the taller the buildings, and the brighter the lights on each floor...each visitor is represented by a small avatar that, when clicked, presents a passport that offers several pieces of information about the user, such as her or his IP address, where that person came from and more. Avatars from dot-com domains wear a suit. Those from dot-edu domains dress as students."


Cute. But does a SimCity-like representation of this data actually improve understanding of web traffic logs? Why use an "urban metaphor" instead of the 2-D graphs used by other log analysis software? And would a city dweller read a visualization where taller buildings and crowds of people represent higher web page popularity differently from someone who has only lived in low-density suburbs ?
Abhijeet Chavan is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Planetizen.

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