According to the GOV.UK GDS design principle number 3: Design with data

In most cases, we can learn from real world behaviour by looking at how existing services are used. Let data drive decision-making, not hunches or guesswork. Keep doing that after taking your service live, prototyping and testing with users then iterating in response. Analytics should be built-in, always on and easy to read. They’re an essential tool.

Somehow I feel as though the intention there is only to make design decisions based on the data available, but it is missing a complementary element of designing interactions and interfaces (i.e. creating services) using data or making data available.

Is this concept covered somewhere else in the design guidelines as I feel it is very important in the age of the OpenData movement to have clearer standards and guidelines around the use of data in design. Examples of the use of data in various design elements include complex interactions and experiences such as infographics and data visualization, or something more traditional such as charts and tables.

My question is, should there be an item in the guideline to cover the use of data as a design element that goes under this design principle (or another one)?

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    I'm not certain what the question is. Could you rephrase it?
    – Mayo
    Mar 16, 2016 at 13:06

2 Answers 2


I think these are two different problems, not mutually exclusive ones at that.

  1. In a product you can design with the data from the user research, regardless of whether the product is data driven or non-data driven.

  2. In a data-driven product where users have a need of working with data and operating data visualisations you can display open data or proprietary data. Displaying data is pervasive these days, almost every product has some kinds of statistics in it, and almost every product works on the data processed in the backend, and it may or may not be exposed in the frontend.

  3. And, finally, in a data-driven product you can design with the data from the user research regarding what data you want to expose according to user needs and pain points and which Data Visualisation to choose for specific data and specific insights users want from this data.

This all being said, I cannot agree with you more. I think data visualisation design standards are much needed and could be a great help. I suspect UX and visual designers all over the world are running into tasks of designing the data every day — more and more data is piped into technology every day, and so it comes into their pipelines — and they don't have a source of information to tap into to make decisions about the design. Sometimes good sense of design and common sense work for them and resolve some of their questions but quite often it doesn't happen.

Where I work, in the UX team of 10-15 people, Data Visualisation is one of the four core competencies and I'm thinking about gathering all the basic information about diagrams design and making a guidelines/cheatsheet for them or running a workshop to introduce them to basic rules of Data Visualisation design so that they have at least some basic knowledge about such core things like data ink.

  • Do you mean a resource like this? --> guides.library.duke.edu/datavis/vis_types. Standards though are tricky, as even within the same data types datasets can differ massively - a good vis for a deep, narrow tree structure may not be suited for a shallow, broad tree. And then within the same data type again, different visualisations are better for different user tasks - compare / search / identify etc. And then when the data gets big, again some vis's scale better than others (e.g. treemaps scale better than node-link), beyond that you have to deal with aggregation/filtering.
    – mgraham
    Mar 16, 2016 at 10:43
  • @mgraham No, I meant even less specific rules: coordinates design — ticks, legend, how to choose/do data color palettes, how to add an interactive layer and so on.
    – Zoe K
    Mar 16, 2016 at 12:12
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    It's great to see someone else thinking about these issues. Personally I think Edward Tufte says pretty much everything you need to know about working with data. From my background in science I think the issue around veracity and integrity around the use of data in design is also paramount, but this probably falls into the realm of design ethics rather than design using data.
    – Michael Lai
    Mar 16, 2016 at 22:01
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    Hey @MichaelLai, returning to you with some links ;-) Someone summarised Tufte principles: moz.com/blog/data-visualization-principles-lessons-from-tufte and this one is actually about design zingchart.com/blog/2014/09/08/…
    – Zoe K
    Mar 30, 2016 at 15:37
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    @ZoeK you've won me over with your answer :) Can we chat more about Tufte and infographic / data visualization design?
    – Michael Lai
    Mar 30, 2016 at 21:13

Not sure what you mean by "...designing...using data or making data available." You can design using data by observing users and analyzing current trends.. And incorporate that into your iteration. But to design by making data available, what do you mean?

And as far as guidelines are concerned, there are many different design principles out there, and some standards as well. One is "ISO 9241," you can read more about it here:http://www.uxbooth.com/articles/what-on-earth-is-iso-9241/

  • My point refers to the use of data in various design elements, such as complex interactions and experiences such as infographics and data visualization, or something more traditional such as charts and tables.
    – Michael Lai
    Mar 16, 2016 at 7:02

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