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How to make sure SAS Visual Analytics end users understand report interactions

Started ‎12-10-2015 by
Modified ‎12-18-2015 by
Views 3,259

SAS Visual Analytics allows users to easily create visualizations that can be shared with other users. The goal is to quickly disseminate visual information to your end user community to help them make better and faster decisions. Sometimes your audience knows exactly what the report is saying and how to interact with it. Other times your users may be inexperienced and not have a full grasp of the data items or know the subtleties of the report. This is where a simple “help” or “click here for more information” link is useful. 


To illustrate, I have included a screen shot of a sample report. In this example, each object visually represents different aspects of the data. When a user clicks on a section of the pie chart, the other three objects are subsets based on that selection.



Figure 1.  Sample Report



The report designer has added a “click here for more information” hyperlink as a text object in the upper right portion of the report. When a user clicks on that link, a page pops up and gives more context to the report (e.g. background, terminology, data elements). But what about the interactions? How does selecting one object impact another? 


From the SAS Visual Analytics User Guide:


 “Interactions are used to direct a report viewer’s attention to specific results in a report. Interactions allow data to be subset to reduce the amount of data, and enables users to understand it within a particular context.”


Interactions are easy to apply to a given report. They are created in the report designer by simply connecting two objects together with a drag and drop of a mouse. The screen capture below shows the properties of the Interactions tab a report designer would see when they create interactions. The icons have specific meaning such as data filtering, data brushing, linking, etc.


As a designer, this works great! No coding and no complex setup. Just connect the objects together and see the results visually. So a first thought may be to have the “click here for more information” link to this image to help a user understand the interactions. However, as straight forward as this view may be for a designer, the filter and linking icons may not be completely obvious to a casual user. The end user may also benefit from understanding the report context (as mentioned above). So how best to deliver this information to the end user?



Figure 2.  Interactions tab - Report Designer



A simple solution is to create an information page with report context AND a visual representation of the interactions. When a user clicks on the “click here for more information” hyperlink, the following page pops up.



Figure 3.  Sample Information Screen


This example was created with an Info Window, which is a special type of report section that is visible only when linking from another object in the report.  [Note: to create an Info Window, first insert a new report section, click on the small triangle next to the section tab and choose the option "Display as Info Window".  You will now be able to link to this new Info Window from a report object, text or image]


The top section of this Info Window is a single text object, and the bottom section is an image object. The image in this example was created by combining multiple screenshots and shapes and saving as a single image. You could also insert multiple images into the Info Window and get the same result.


This Info Window quickly gives the end user context of the report as well as a quick visual representation of any and all interactions within the report. The end result: a simple and straight forward way for an end user to gain a more complete understanding of the report. 


This is just one example of using Info Windows and how they are a great way of disseminating context-sensitive information to end users. I hope this gives report designers something to consider when designing reports.  Happy visualizing!



Useful tip to show information flow! Would be nice for the visual to be autogenerated as part of the report properties. Could this be considered for a future release?

I definitely agree with MichelleH Smiley Happy

I agree - this has been the biggest point of confusion for report viewers.

Thank you all for weighing in on this! If you haven't already, @MichelleHomes, drop your idea in the SASWare Ballot (right nav of the communities homepage) so we can consider it.

Thanks @BeverlyBrown for suggesting to create an idea in the SASWare Ballot for this. I have done so at


Please cast your vote and/or comment there.




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Last update:
‎12-18-2015 04:20 PM
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