I have a graph which can render both surf height or swell height up the Y-AXIS. The users have the ability to toggle the display value, but there must be a default value, which ever way I default the information I get a bunch of emails saying that people preferred the other route.

My solution is present the user with an option before the graph is rendered, covering the graph canvas, Selected Graph Type: Surf Height or Swell Height, cookie the selection and then always default the graph to this. One it configuration.

Is this an acceptable solution or should I stick to my guns and default the graph to the most common data set and allow users to change the legend using the toggle.

You can see the graph here.

  • 1
    Will users always be looking at one rather than the other? Will they ever need to perform comparisons? Would a user be likely to confuse swell and surf if they did not see a clue? Would that confusion be costly? Is there an existing industry standard? Is there any way to show both sets of data at once? Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 18:09
  • The surf height is dependant on the swell height (swell makes the waves, the surf height is the wave height). It's industry standard to show both swell and surf as surf height is based on the "average" beach slope. They wouldn't need to compare, which is why there is two views. You could show both but that would confuse newer users, where the surf height is most useful, advanced users would find the swell height more useful.
    – Gcoop
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 20:43

2 Answers 2


Stick to your guns. Showing the default graph and not requiring a setup step before doing so is better in this case because

  1. The graph is showing valid information in either mode.
  2. The settings buttons are obvious and directly above the graph and easy to change.
  3. That extra setup step could cost you traffic, some people find any extra set up or sign up or any interruption irritating and it could push a percentage of them away.

I wouldn't put to much stock in those emails until you know the percentage of your audience that is complaining.


I would recommend that you do some analytics on this. You could do one month where you use one default, and log how many users switch compared to how many users stay with the default. Based on the results, you would have an idea for how good your default was. You will likely still have a sea of emails telling you to do it otherwise, but you will not get the emails of people telling you you did it right.

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