A method of illustrating relationships and patterns in system behaviors by representing two or more system variables in a controlled way.

People understand the way the world works by identifying relationships and patterns in or between systems. One of the most powerful methods of identifying and understanding these relationships is to represent information in controlled ways so that comparisons can be made. Key techniques for making valid comparisons are apples to apples, single contexts, and benchmarks.

Apples to Apples

Comparing apples to apples means comparing things that can reasonably be compared, while the phrase apples to oranges often is used to represent a comparison that is unreasonable or perhaps impossible.

For example, when comparing crime rates of different countries, it is necessary to account for differences in variables such as population, types of laws, and level of law enforcement. Otherwise, conclusions based on the comparison will be unreliable. Common methods of ensuring apples-to-apples comparisons include clearly disclosing details of how variables were measured, making corrections to the data as necessary to eliminate confounding variables, and representing the variables using the same graphical and numerical standards.

Single Context

Comparison data should be presented in a single context, so that subtle differences and patterns in the data are detectable.

For example, the ability to detect patterns across multiple graphs is lower if the graphs are located on separate pages versus the same page. Common methods of representing information in single contexts include the use of a small number of displays that combine many variables (versus many separate displays) and multiple small views of system states (known as small multiples) in a single display (versus multiple displays).


Claims about evidence or phenomena should be accompanied by benchmark variables so that clear and substantive comparison can be made.

For example, Apple usually compares any new device performance against the old version – and current technologies available on the market. That gives the value to the Comparison.


More Readings,

A property in which the physical characteristics of an object or environment influence its function. The term affordance was created by psychologist James J. Gibson, his best-known definition is taken from his seminal 1979 book, The Ecological Appro...

A design charrette is a short, collaborative meeting during which members of a team quickly collaborate and sketch designs to explore and share a broad diversity of design ideas. Designers and non-designers—including project stakeholders, engi...

Concept maps are graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts indicated by a connecting line linking two concepts. A visua...

Through the Brief Book, Joseph McCormack tells us about the Elusive 600 and how to use it in the aim to present great ideas in little words. We have the mental capacity to comprehend 750 words a minute but most people speak at 150 words a minute. ...

Exploratory research is research conducted for a problem that has not been studied more clearly, intended to establish priorities, develop operational definitions and improve the final research design. Exploratory research helps determine the best re...

Using web-based tools to reveal statistically relevant data for usability enhancements Enables design teams to leverage web-based tools to collect statistically significant information about what people are doing on your website or web application. ...

What about my blog ? Topics may you like.