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).

Benchmarks

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.

References

More Readings,

Usability Report, When reporting results from a usability test, you should focus primarily on your findings and recommendations that are differentiated by levels of severity.  Include the pertinent information from the test plan and present just en...

The cognitive walkthrough is a usability evaluation method in which one or more evaluators work through a series of tasks and ask a set of questions from the perspective of the user. The focus of the cognitive walkthrough is on understanding the syst...

An imageboard or image board is a type of Internet forum which operates mostly via posting images. The first imageboards were created in Japan and inspired the creation of a number of English language imageboards. They are based on the textboard conc...

Testing of prototypes, products, or interfaces by users of a system in design development This gauges human expectations against a designed artifact, determining whether something is useful, usable, and desirable. Testing should collect per...

Paper-prototyping interactions and value exchanges among people, artifacts, and environments Business origami is a service design activity where stakeholders build a physical representation of a system and then prototype future or alternative ...

Capturing the day-to-day context in which people engage with your product or service This captures what customers do, think, and use as they set out to achieve a goal that involves your product or service. It provides a framework that desig...