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Personal Finance Visual Analyzer: Best Visual Analysis Interface of 2011

by Alexander 'Sandy' Chiang, Research Director, Dashboard InsightTuesday, December 20, 2011

Visual Analysis Interface Requirements

Before I critique the design and implementation, the background to this visual analysis interface was that Sheila, a 25-year-old professional, hired a dashboard designer to help analyze her expenses and savings and ensure she reached her personal finance goals. Her main goals were to:

  • Retire by the time she was 55, which she projected she would need about $2 million to accomplish
  • Understand where she was overspending.

Visual Analysis Interface Critique

Choosing the Best Visual Analysis Interface of 2011 was difficult. Each submission offered good functionality, but Patrick Tehubijuluw of Credis did a great job putting together a visual analysis interface that was extremely easy to use. Why was it so easy to use? Because the instructions were built in! He built his entry using QlikView because he has a lot of experience with it and feels it provides a solid set of functionality. Although Patrick used QlikView to build the winning entry, he won because of his data visualization and user interface design skills.

Here’s why Patrick’s interface won:

  • Low learning curve
  • Easy to compare expenses
  • Ability to perform savings analysis

Low Learning Curve

Patrick implemented a help system that explains how to read and use the visualizations based on the visualization chosen. I didn’t have any trouble learning how to use his user interface and not because I’m a technical person, but because the user help guidelines were clearly laid out.

Easy to Compare Expenses

In the dashboard submission, Mike Moore of West Notifications Group used sparklines to show trends for each expense type. This is appropriate for dashboard purposes, but when comparing trends, it’s better to have a larger line chart with all the expense trends on the same scale for accuracy. It could be said that there are too many lines in the chart for analysis, but Patrick thoughtfully implemented the ability to choose which line you want to see in the chart by selecting it on the legend items in the bottom left chart.

Perform Savings Analysis

Based on Mike dashboard design, Sheila was not going to meet her retirement goals. With this visual analysis interface, Sheila can play around with savings contribution values to see what is needed to reach her retirement goal. Patrick has provided standard variables to help Sheila decide what she can do to reach her goals.

Enhancing the Visual Analysis Interface

Overall, Patrick did a great job, but the following changes would enhance the experience:

  • In the savings tab, he could use input boxes instead of sliders. I find sliders don’t provide the precision that is usually necessary when doing this type of analysis. They also take up a lot of real estate, which could be better used to show more of the visualization.
  • Across all tabs, I would remove the exact values found in the labels because they clutter up the visualizations. A tooltip would give Sheila details and remove the clutter.
  • For the expenses, I would use a line chart instead of a spline chart because spline charts typically misrepresent data. In this particular case, it is showing low and high values that actually don’t exist. To provide more context, I would also gray out the other expense trends when an expense is selected, instead of hiding them all.

Final Thoughts

Ideally, the dashboard serves as a portal for Sheila to access the visual analysis interface. That is, when Sheila sees that she has gone over-budget or notices she won’t meet her retirement goal, she can drill down into the visual analysis interface to assess her situation in a more granular manner.

You can download the QlikView file here. Note that you cannot open the file if you have QlikView Personal Edition.

About Patrick Tehubijuluw

Patrick has practiced business intelligence for over five years and has over 10 years of experience in the financial sector. In particular, he focuses on analytics and data visualization. He is dedicated to the field and is always trying to improve his skills in this area.

He currently owns the company Credis. The company creates actionable insights to bring value and drive performance for their clients. In the next few years, Credis plans on focusing more on intuitive analytics and data visualization.

If you’d like to learn more about Credis or about this dashboard, you can contact them at: info@credis.nl

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Jorge Garcia Bazan said:

Great Dashboard!! Congratulations! It includes all the details and with a small learning curve, awesome! I'm just starting with qlikview and I was wondering it you can share this qlikview document on personal finances?? Please let me know I am very interested. Thanks in advance! Regards!

Alexander 'Sandy' Chiang said:

@Jorge - here's the download link to get the QVW file - http://bit.ly/tbKLC0

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