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Organizing the bookshelves

When you go to the library, you expect to find the books in an organized fashion, typically sorted first by subject matter, then by author, then by title, and so on. Imagine the frustration when you walk in and discover that books are spread out everywhere with no discernible order. We are very particular about tidiness: it would still be terrible if the books were arranged by author and title without first splitting by subject matter. We are annoyed because it would take too long to find a book.

I did run into such an exasperating bookstore -- I believe it is in Brooklyn. The (used) books in this store are arranged by the date on which the owner acquired them. Fiction, I recall, is ordered by alphabets of last names, and then, say within the 'A' authors, the books were sorted by date of acquisition. What a headache!

Reader Pat L. had a big headache trying to figure out this chart, found on Wikipedia: (I'm just excerpting a small part of it; the full chart is here).


To quote Pat:

I was overwhelmed by the information -- so many chemicals and so many units of measure.  I quickly gave up and opened up the image in an picture editor.  One-by-one, I erased the blood chemicals I wasn't interested in.  Maybe if I was a doctor, the chart might have been useful.


One way to simplify this is using small multiples. Recognize that few if any users would need to directly compare every one of these chemicals. I'm guessing that groups of chemicals can go on separate charts. This is no different from a bookseller organizing shelves to help readers find books.

Also get rid of the minor gridlines.

For a summary chart of this kind, I doubt that it adds anything to include the information on whether the end of a range is definite and consistent, definite but inconsistent, or unknown.


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Curtis Johnson Realty

Having a wide array of books, it is a headache for most people. Like in a bookstore, they just put books on the shelves that is empty. there has to be an organize data base info so that locating such books can be a breeze. Thanks a lot for what you have shred. This is indeed a great tip. More power and keep up the good work.

Rosie Redfield

I've actually used this chart. It did contain the information I was looking for, though finding the right place to look wasn't easy. Having the information in a whole lot of little charts would be nice, but might have been more work for the designer. Also, I can imagine posting such a chart on the laboratory wall, as a general reference.

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