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We have a new investment product which we introduced during Q1 2016. As such it has no historical data, so at the current we are not showing any kind of historical performance chart. The value of the investment only changes once every quarter, and it issues at most one dividend per quarter.

As of April 1, we will have one period of historical data. My question is whether it's better to show a chart with only one period, or to try and represent the data some other way?

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It really depends on the intent or purpose of showing the information, and how it fits in with other bits and pieces of information that you are displaying. In general, there is one source of data but you can present it in many different ways. Some considerations to help you determine what works for you:

  • If you want to show historical performance, then having clear labelling of the date/time period will let the users know that it is a new product and therefore there is no historical information (yet).
  • If you are interested in only the comparison between the current period and the next period, you can simply display the dividend value and provide a status indicator to show that there was no change from the previous period (as there is currently no previous data available)
  • If you want to let users switch between these views, provide them with a control to do so and again put appropriate labels in place

I suggest also reviewing some examples of dashboard displays from related websites and see if they can be adapted to suit your purposes.

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In The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics, Dona Wong has a section on missing data. She has a few recommendations:

  1. In a bar chart, leave a space for the missing data and make a footnote about the missing data. Missing more than two out of 10 spaces? Don't use a bar chart.
  2. For a line chart, span the gap and continue the line. You're trying to show a trend, after all. (this one probably wouldn't work for you)
  3. For a line chart with a short series, mark each point on the line so the gap is more obvious. (this one probably wouldn't work in your case either).

So this makes me think the next logical step would be to use the type of chart you typically use for this sort of visualization, but add a label or annotation so users can see this is the first data point in your series.

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Consider thinking out of the charting box, and inside the data box.

Are there (internal) periodical moments at which the value is checked? Are there similar products? Can you compare with industry or market averages?

Historical datapoints are shown because they give context. Substitute your lack of history with other forms of context.

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