Star and polyline glyphs in a grid plot and on a map display: which perform better?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Glyphs are small geometric shapes that in geovisualization are often used to represent multidimensional spatial data. The aim of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of their two 10 types – star and polyline glyphs, as they can encode the same message and can provide similar functionality. Thus, if the two glyph types are similar and can be used for the same data, the question arises as to which of them better facilitates various user tasks. To address this question, an empirical study of 26 individual users is conducted to investigate differences in user performance for polyline and star glyphs shown either in a grid plot or on a map display. In this study, a 15 task-based approach with eye-tracking is applied, as well as a subjective questionnaire and a psychological test of cognitive style. The finding is that polyline glyphs better facilitate tasks when datapoint values in glyphs are to be read, whereas star glyphs are better when a visual search among glyphs is to be done. Moreover, the results reveal that the map display works better than the grid plot. If star glyphs are to be used, the key (legend) needs to be better 20 incorporated into a visual interface.