visualising data

Library ratio of online versus on site visits and visitors

Interesting tweet from #uxlibucc, above. Can you answer that question? I'd wager most of us can't, but we should be able to. Someone in our orgs should be able to, right? We need to make strategic decisions, about to where to prioritise resources, based on evidence wherever we can.

As it happens, I can check this figure at my own institution, because it's something I've been thinking about a lot. I realised that a) I had no idea which were the most popular online parts of the library presence and b) I had no idea how this compared with actual footfall. So I got access to Google analytics, and I repeatedly ask my colleague Steph for turnstile statistics...

So below is a chart to compare physical and online use of the Library, for Monday of this week (all 24 hours of it). A couple of caveats:

1) This is not presented as a pie chart because we're not dealing in percentages. Many of the users of the building will also be using the catalogue at the same time.

2) I've taken the actual numbers off it in case I shouldn't be giving that info out publicly, but to give you a rough idea the total number of visits to the building is well over 10,000

3) This is just one day. I have not gone into the data to try and find an average day or a representative day, I just chose the first day of this week. (Although we compared it with the previous Monday and none of the data was atypical.)

Chart comparing visits to the library building, subject guide, website and catalogue on one day. The building gets the most visits, the catalogue the most visitors.

Chart comparing visits to the library building, subject guide, website and catalogue on one day. The building gets the most visits, the catalogue the most visitors.

So while building visits outstrip online visits (because each student is coming in almost exactly 3 times on average) it appears more people use the catalogue overall, though that figure could be skewed by people using the catalogue multiple times on different devices. Clearly the catalogue is MUCH more popular than the website, which makes me think: should we work even harder than we already do on the system as it's the way more people interface with us than any other? Should we be trying to get more info on to it as people go there so much more than they go to our other online places, or should we try and strip it down so the usability is as good as possible? 

If you combine the online stats into one figure, the graph looks like this:

Chart showing there are more overall online visitors compared to building visitors, but more uses of the building than the combined online spaces.

Chart showing there are more overall online visitors compared to building visitors, but more uses of the building than the combined online spaces.

Keeping in mind that I'm not including any social media in the online figure - so our YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Slideshare, Blog(s) and Instagram views aren't represented - you can see the online sphere is a huge factor in people's daily use of the library, as indeed we'd expect.

To go back to the question in the tweet at the start of the post, does our staff allocation reflect this ratio? No it doesn't. The staffing at York is so labyrinthine I can't work the ratio out, but suffice to say we devote much more staff to face-to-face interaction than we do to the website and catalogues.

This is as it should be. I'm not advocating for the staff ratio to exactly reflect the virtual/physical ratio, because the nature of the use is very different. But I do wonder if we were starting from scratch but knew the ratio in the graphs above, would we do things a little differently?

UPDATE: Since I posted this yesterday I had some interesting discussion on Twitter, and a couple of people mentioned if we included the stats for the resources themselves (JSTOR for example) then the online side of things would be even higher.

This is a good point. I didn't include them because I didn't think of doing so (rather than it being a position I'd deliberately taken), but on reflection I think it skews the picture too much to put them in - because a lot of the catalogue views, and probably the majority of the SubjectGuide views, will be people on their way to the licenced e-resources. I'd argue that in the same way one visit to the building results in lots of potential uses of the library, one use of the catalogue may result in several e-resources being consulted.

That said, there will always be lots of people on campus going direct to the resources without following our links, so that would increase the online views somewhat. Ultimately the reason I find this interesting is comparing, for want of a better word, the different interfaces of the library and being able to see explicitly which area engages the most users. So although our databases and journals are hugely important, they aren't 'our' interfaces in quite the same way as the catalogue, website, libguides and building.

So you want to make in infographic? 4 useful options


We're putting together a guide to various infographic software for our students, so I've had cause to play around with a few. I find a lot of tools recomended on the web just don't quite work for educational stuff (or, indeed, library stuff); they're just too much style and not enough substance.

Also, all the articles about infographic tools are entitled things like '61 GREAT INFOGRAPHIC PACKAGES!' which always baffles me somewhat. Maybe it's the information professional in me, but I think if you're going to write something recommending a set of tools, you should at least narrow the number down to a recommended few...

So what are the most effective tools for creating meaningful infographics?

1) Great for stats and figures: Piktochart

I really like Piktochart. It's the tool we use most often at work. My colleagues have used the templates to create infographics, for example this one has been used to explain library processes to users in a way that is engaging and easy to understand:

An example of a Piktochart template

An example of a Piktochart template

It's simple to take something like the template above and change the images (there's a huge built in library of icons, or you can use your own) and the colours etc to suit whatever you wish to express. Piktochart also has seperate templates for Reports, which are nice.

For me, though, the way it integrates very easily with your own data from Excel or Google Sheets, which you can import from a .CSV file, is the best thing about this tool. So it takes what you already have and makes it visually appealing, which helps prevent the all-style-no-substance issue that afflicts a lot of infographics.

You can import your own data

You can import your own data

Although Piktochart does infographics, reports, and some really nice data visualisation with maps, I've mostly used it to create individual charts which I've then exported for use in other things, like Action Plan documents, or presentations. In the example below, all the graphs etc and visualisations are from Piktochart, and I'm by no means an expert user so this is just scratching the surface of what it can do.

Piktochart is free, but also has reasonably priced educational packages, one of which we have at York, that allow you a few more options and some more features. 

2) Good for flexibility: Canva

Canva does a lot more besides infographics. It's really good for creating images perfectly sized for social media, and they put genuinely useful tips on their design school blog.

At York we've used Canva for creating one page guides to things like Google Scholar, or JSTOR, in order to embed them in the VLE, blogs, etc. Canva is simple to use and there are a lot of nice built in fonts and images which can make otherwise not-overly-exciting subjects a bit more engaging for users.

You can use Canva for free, which is what we do. It tries to tempt you in with paid for images and templates, but you can also import your own images so there's no requirement to pay for theirs if you don't want to.

Here's the interface and an example of a free to use template you can build on:

The Canva interface

The Canva interface

I'd recommend playing around with Canva if you've not used it, because it has so many potential applications. The trick, really, is being able to sort through the paid stuff to find the free stuff, and being able to sort through the superficial 'this is probably great if you're the web designer for an artisan baker in Portland' templates to find the 'I can actually see this working in my world' examples...

3) Good for interactivity: Infogram

Infogram is particularly good for creating graphics you want to embed online, because they can be responsive and interactive depending on what you do with them. It's basically about hovering over different bits of the graphics, but it does allow you to focus on certain parts of the data more easily than a static chart allows. See the example below:

Other pluses with Infogram include its ability to import data from a really impressive variety of sources. Downsides include the free version being fairly stripped back of features, and even the cheaper paid for version being out of financial reach for most non-profits.

4) Good for surprising you with its potential for making infographics: PowerPoint!

The much maligned PowerPoint is actually a very good tool which is often deployed spectacularly badly by its users. It's more flexible people than people realise (especially the two most recent iterations, 2013 + 2016), and that makes it surprisingly good for infographics. The main reason it's good is because you can take something - a chart or graph from excel, words written in interesting fonts, icons, images - and put it on a slide, and it just stays where you put it. Then you can layer more and more stuff on, and easily move it around - unlike Word which is a nightmare for that sort of thing, and a bit like Photoshop, but without the need for a 2 year learning curve...

The keys to making an infographic are firstly to edit your slide to the right dimensions: go into the Design tab, choose Page setup and then choose, for example, A3, Portrait. Your single slide is your infographic. Secondly, use images from somewhere like, or icons from, to make your content interesting (along side graphs and charts you can copy and paste in from Excel). Thirdly, use a non-standard font - download one from - as typography makes a huge difference.

Bonus option: for Google Analytics Infographics

If you have a website which uses Google Analytics to track statistics, but don't want to be logging in to check your stats all the time, provide a useful free service. You log in with your Google ID, give them your analytics code, and they send you a weekly infographic which tells you how you've done in all the key areas. When you have a good week it's a nice friendly blue, if you have a not-so-good week it's red for danger...

Sign up for yours at, here. Everything else does is a paid for service, but the Analytics infographics are free.

Do you have any recommendations I should add to this list? Leave me a comment below.