The 6 Month Blues

One of the common issues that comes up in our workshops (Building World-class Business Dashboards) is how to gain user adoption and change culture. For example, a recent question was around color, specifically, how to steer the organization away from using the standard red and green colors in the traffic light colors. One of the ways to introduce change is to do it slowly, over a period of time. I call this "The 6 month Blues". (Download PDF slides here.)

Let's start with a dashboard. This dashboard is something I created for MakeoverMonday based on the London Buses Safety data.

Let's imagine this dashboard is being used at a company that utilizes the traffic light colors, specifically red and green. It might looks something like this.

Note - I realize that "non-injury incidents" are not necessarily "good" and therefore green might not make sense here, but this is just for illustration purposes.

So what's the issue? Well, the primary issue here is that these colors are not "colorblind friendly" (see my blog post "5 Tips for Designing Colorblind Friendly Visualizations" for more information). For people that have color vision deficiency, this dashboard might look something like this.

Now let's play "The 6 Month Blues". Over the period of the next 6 months, we will change the green color little by little, adding just a bit of blue each time. Blue is a great color to leverage to create colorblind friendly visualization, so by mixing it into the green it will eventually create a color contrast that will be colorblind friendly.

After the first month it will look like this.

The next month it will look like this.

Three months in it will look like this.

At four months it will look like this. Notice, it still looks red and green and because we changed it over a very long period of time, most people won't notice any change at all.

In month five we add a bit more blue.

And finally, by month six we have a dashboard that looks like this.

Let's examine this dashboard with the same colorblind simulation that we did before. In this dashboard, notice that the colors are much easier to distinquish from each other.

Here is a side-by-side comparions of these two dashboards using the same colorblind simulation. Notice there is a big difference between the original dashboard on the left and the new colors on the right.

If we compare the colors from the original to the new dashboard without colorblind simulation, you'll see there is a noticeable difference between the original green and the new blue/green color..

Had we tried to make this change all at once, it would be immediately obvious to users of this dashboard that the color changed dramatically. By changing it over time, we introduced a major change little by little. This is something that most people probably won't even notice and before long the new colors become "standard". Note, there are other things that we could do along these lines. For example, we could make the red darker and the green/blue lighter, making that change gradually over time. This would create even more contrast between the colors.

This is just one more tool for your toolbox. It may or may not work for you, but in combination with other things, you may find it useful when trying to change culture and gain user adoption of something new. So the next time you find yourself caught at a traffic light, try playing "The 6 Month Blues".

I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Jeff@DataPlusScience.com

Jeffrey A. Shaffer

Follow on Twitter @HighVizAbility