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Stephen Few, a respected IT innovator, consultant, and educator has studied the art and science of visual presentation for many years. In a White Paper prepared for Cognos Corporation, he presents seven principles for the effective display of quantitative information. The seventh of these is presented below:
“When a person examines information on a computer screen or the page of a printed report, a limited amount of the information can be held in short-term memory if comparisons must be made to information on another computer screen or page. Information that is never attended to never gets stored in short-term memory, and even if several chunks of information are attended to, only around four will be remembered when the person moves from one display to the next. This makes comparisons difficult. You can augment people's short-term memory, however, by placing everything that needs to be compared within eye span, so it is readily available for rapid swapping in and out of short-term memory as it is being processed. A popular example is a dashboard that has been properly designed to display everything within eye span on a single screen that people must monitor for rapid processing and comprehension.