When I look at charts like this one, I ponder: Should graph designers adopt "objectivity" as practiced by American journalists?
Is it even possible to make "objective" charts? Every design choice we make seem to chip away some of the detachment. In this chart, the choice to order important web-site features by shopper -- rather than merchant -- ratings is a tacit preference for those ratings. Bringing out key messages in the data is a subjective act, isn't it?
Are "objective" charts useful? In our example, the design choices are kept to a minimum, and so it seems is its usefulness. In comparing shopper and merchant ratings, one would be most interested in identifying the most effective web-site features as well as those features offered by merchants that find little resonance with shoppers-users. These questions are better addressed by directly plotting the average rank and the ranking gap between merchants and shoppers (see below).
Notice that I said "ranking" rather than "rating". The footnote discloses that the ratings were obtained from two different surveys conducted by two different companies at two different times. How should we interpret the difference of 13% between the 89% of shoppers rating "Free Shipping" "very to extremely helpful" and the 76% of merchants rating "Free Shipping" "somewhat to very valuable"?
- the three top features ("Promo Discounts", "Free Shipping" and "Keyword Search") which attained the best average rank and least ranking gap;
- the three "orphan" features ("Recommended Products", "Top Sellers", "Gift Selection") created by loving web-site producers, abandoned by independent-minded shoppers;
- the three "neglected stepchildren" ("Shop the Catalog", "Store Locator", "Product Comparison") whose importance to shoppers were vastly underestimated by the merchants.
Unfortunately, while being "objective", the data table fails to point out anything of interest to the reader.
Reference: "Consumers want one thing -- merchants are delivering another", Internet Retailer, Jan 2007.