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For those not aware of Sparklines, here is an example:

http://demos.telerik.com/silverlight/#BulletGraph/FirstLook

Would these work well to really give users a quick dashboard/reporting overview of info?

Excel 2010 has the function built in and I was wondering if this would span more reporting software to look at it and adopt it. For instance - they could be really useful in Google Analytics for conveying historical information in each cell.

Here is the article I read initially that caused my fascination with them: http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001OR

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Well, they are in fact used in Google Analytics... enter image description here

And when you're logged into wordpress, you'll see this in the bar at the top of a WP blog:

enter image description here

I think it's not a sparkline per se, but it's a similar concept.

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True enough - I actually was thinking in some of the reports themselves instead of in the dashboard - should have clarified that. –  Chris Kluis Apr 6 '11 at 10:49
    
I believe that does indeed count as a sparkline. Tufte uses similar examples in his writing. –  tajmo Mar 9 '12 at 0:48
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I'm working with IBM Cognos reporting software, and recently found an article that you will find very relevant.

http://www.performance-ideas.com/2011/03/21/sparklines_cognos/

My own experience has taught me that sparkline can be useful when they are grouped with other sparklines representing alike data, and you need to compare their trends amongst each other.

The Google Analytic sparklines shown above probably isn't the best of use of sparklines, because they're displaying 6 disparate sets of data. When it comes down to it, they actually don't say much, though it may be more useful if timeline were longer.

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The benefit that I think GA uses them for is the simplicity and ability to see spikes or spiky-ness at a glance. I agree though that their usefulness is rather limited for anything that goes deeper than that. –  cdeszaq Mar 8 '12 at 15:10
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I have found sparklines to be effective if the "shape" of the line is more important than the "values" it represents. We use sparklines as one-week trends of data, where we want the user to get a sense of the progression. Is the data increasing or decreasing? Is there a large sudden drop? etc. The prompts the user to do furhter investigation if warranted.

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I suppose the problem I have with sparklines on a display is that displays are too low res to properly display them. According to Tufte, the print resolution for books is significantly higher, so they work there, as they are intended to be high-density data displays.

If they can be created as proper high-density displays, then they are one good way of showing the trends and direction of variables. If they are simply small versions of graphs, with no greater resolution, they are not real sparklines, and are in danger of missing important information.

In principle, I love them. It is all about doing them right.

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PeerIndex uses sparklines on it's profiles.

enter image description here

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Yes, they do use sparklines ... but do they work for you as a user? do new users notice and understand them quickly? are there alternative ways for communicating the same gist which would work better (or worse), and why? [in short: please provide more than just an example] –  Erics Mar 7 '12 at 0:07
    
Not sure why this gets negative feedback while Vitaly's answer is also merely informational. –  The Question Mar 8 '12 at 15:31
    
@TheQuestion This is because the OP question text has been changed. When initially asked back in April '11 it was a request for examples of Sparklines. squeezemylime added his answer after this question had been dormant (and with an accepted answer) for 11 months. Questions just featuring lists of examples aren't productive to a Q&A site so the wording was changed. Instead of closing off the question it was reworded to be more appropriate to the Q&A format as the concept of Sparklines is useful to this community it's not something we'd want to just close off. –  JonW Mar 8 '12 at 15:43
    
@Jon W. Okay thank you, that is clear. –  The Question Mar 9 '12 at 8:59
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