Monday, 26 August 2013

Sparklines for time series economic data

Sparklines make it possible to fit a huge number of data points in a small space. I recommend Edward Tufte's chapter from Beautiful Evidence (image, left) and Stephen Few's article on scaling sparklines.

While planning my dashboard page, I came across a number of sites that use sparklines for economic indicators, including the home page of FRED. FRED is a fantastic economic data site that makes it very easy to find data on the US economy and beyond. These sparklines fit quite a bit of data in a small space, and a more detailed chart appears on hovering the mouse. I think that the charts could be improved, however, by a bit more information about scaling. Each chart shows approximately ten data points, and it would be useful to add 'last 10 months' or 'last 10 quarters' etc below each chart. Two numbers could also be added to the left of each chart to show the minimum and maximum values. Finally, the vertical scale could be expanded slightly to fill the space available.

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