Wednesday, June 10, 2009

BBC European Election Map: Complex and Unclear

On Sunday we had an election TV program (available in the UK until next Sunday here) that discussed the results of the European election in the UK by the BBC. Part of the program is a set of graphics and maps to describe and analyse the results as they come in. Over the years I've watched these get more sophisticated but on Sunday they just went way too far IMHO - it was flashy, technically complex and confusing. A perfect example of chart junk.

The presenter stood in front of the displays, some kind of blue screen effect put him in the room you can see in the image above. My annoyances refer to the red numbers which I've added:
  1. The screenshot shows the presenter discussing how the vote split between the political parties from the 2004 election in the NW of England. The NW region is shown on the map marked by the [1]. To show its the region under discussion they accentuated it by making it appear a lighter grey than the rest of the map - not at all clear. It also mixed in with the 3D separation of regions (discussed below) to make it even less clear. An outline of an intense color would have worked much better.
  2. To separate regions of England out their borders are given a 3D effect to look like cliffs. This is distracting since the boundaries don't refer to anything 'real' - a border color would work much better.
  3. I didn't watch to see how the floor map of Europe was incorporated in the presentation because I switched off after watching the first few minutes but its just distracting to see it on the floor like this. Much better to switch between a UK map and a Europe map on the wall, you could do this with a transition virtual flight in or out of the UK to/from Europe.
  4. This is in effect a glorified pie chart. No need to add 'SHARE' in the middle, we all know what a pie chart shows! The arms and circles are unnecessary, names in color with figures beside the segments would be just as good and easier to read.
  5. And if the pie chart wasn't bad enough with its weird colored arms we have to contend with a background image of European buildings we have to separate visually to see the graphic.
The BBC has wonderful graphic design as a whole and making the design look professional is important so I support their usual use of animations and visual whizzyness. However, this map/graphic system must have cost thousands to put together they could have made it better by keeping it simpler AND at a fraction of the price.


Fonant said...

And the pie charts were mainly used to compare before-and-after vote shares, but took several seconds of unnecessary animation to switch from one to the other. It was very difficult to remember the "before" numbers to compare with the "after" numbers.

Would have been much better to have two pie-charts side-by-side, so you could actually see that change!

And that silly "virtual touch screen" thing? What was that all about? Just seemed to slow things down and create lots of pointless presenter-movement.

Rich Treves said...


Didn't see the animation but I agree the virtual touch screen thing didn't add anything at all but pointless presenter movement. In the post, I just thought I'd done enough bad mouthing of the beeb for one day :)