Drill-down Stories

A drill-down story is a visual communication technique that helps viewers to explore data by gradually revealing more information and context as they interact with the visualization. Designing a drill-down story involves understanding the central message, organizing data in layers, choosing the right visualizations, establishing a visual hierarchy, designing smooth transitions, adding interactivity, and testing and refining the final design. These steps will help you create an engaging and informative visual narrative for your audience to explore and enjoy.  

Step 1: Identify the overarching story 

First, we need to understand the message we want to convey with our data. This will serve as the roadmap for our visual narrative. Think of a weather report: the main message could be “An unusual cold wave is hitting the country.”

Step 2: Organize data in layers 

Once we have our story, we can start organizing our data into layers. Each layer should focus on specific aspects of the story, adding more context and subtlety as the viewer interacts with it. For our weather report example, the first layer may show a map of the country with temperature ranges. The second layer could display more detailed data, like wind speed or precipitation.

Step 3: Choose the right visualizations 

Now, let’s choose visualizations that best represent the data at each level of our drill-down story. For instance, we could use a heat map to depict the temperature ranges in our first layer. We might use line charts for the second layer to show wind speed and bar charts for precipitation levels.

Step 4: Establish a visual hierarchy 

A clear visual hierarchy helps direct the viewer’s attention and drives focus on the most relevant aspects of the story. For our example, we could use color, size, and typography to emphasize the unusually cold temperatures and guide the viewer’s eye through the different levels of information.

Step 5: Design smooth transitions 

To keep the viewer engaged, we must ensure seamless transitions between layers. For example, when the viewer clicks on a specific area on the heat map, the visualization could smoothly zoom in to reveal more details, such as wind speed and precipitation charts for that specific region.

Step 6: Add interactivity elements 

To make the drill-down story more engaging and intuitive, include interactive features that encourage exploration. In our weather report example, we could add tooltips for users to get additional information or use buttons to toggle between different data sets.

Step 7: Test and refine 

Lastly, test your drill-down story with real users and gather feedback. Make necessary improvements to ensure the design is intuitive and effectively conveys your intended message.