Exploring Data Visually

Microsoft SandDance

Overview

SandDance is a browser-based data visualization platform that helps you find insights and tell stories. Spearheaded by Steven Drucker, Principal Researcher in the Visualization and Interaction Team (VIBE) at Microsoft Research, the tool visualizes individual particles that represent every record within a dataset, giving you more control over the information through a dynamic and customizable user interface optimized for both conventional desktops and touchscreens. Schema worked with Microsoft Research on the design of the interface, balancing control and customization with a fluid, intuitive user experience.

SandDance is a data visualization platform using particles for every data record
SandDance allows selecting from multiple views to find insights in the data

Process

Microsoft Research brought us in prior to the initial public launch of the platform to help develop a compelling and intuitive user experience for the platform, all while retaining a high degree of control. We worked closely with Steven and team in a series of weekly sprints, where we collaboratively developed, discussed and prototyped interaction models and interface elements. Among our contributions was the design of a control bar that puts all view controls in a single, contained space, as well as a visual system consisting of a typographic and iconographic design language for creating a consistent user experience and clear control hierarchy.

Our final design deliverables, showing the control bar in action
A sketch for the logo uses the particle theme

Outcome

Through its novel interface, SandDance supports both exploration and communication via simultaneous views of both aggregate and individual data, allowing people to find more insights in datasets. Encouraging collaboration and natural user interactions, SandDance is one of the most compelling new data visualization products available. Its approach to data visualization based on single particles is truly groundbreaking and sets the standard for the next wave of data visualization products and tools.

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