SAS Visual Analytics: Design Versus Reality

Recently, Alan Hjemsted Muller from Denmark contacted me with some additional ideas about he had with solving dashboard issues. He provided a gorgeous dashboard that is used in the Elsinore Municipality.


This dashboard (in Danish) – it is about a kindergarten.  He offered to send it in English but I like it in Danish. It allows you to focus more on the design because your eyes are not busy interpreting the information. I really love the color palette. Alan noted they used the Agency FB font instead of Arial or Verdana to give it an infographic look. How clever.

Consider Your Users

In my Planning your SAS Visual Analytics Dashboard post, I suggested using horizontal containers to keep the objects aligned and employ color for the eye. Alan advised me to consider your user community. He noted that the users in his community had laptops that featured small screens and low resolution. While you may have a large monitor to create your design, your users may not. Remember to test your design on the end user’s monitor size.

This creates a conflict in your beautiful design versus the real world of hardware. This is especially true when you use container objects. Containers don’t allow users to enlarge graphs. I can see how that is an issue when working with a small screen. Alan’s solution is to use the precision mode. This feature allows you to have exact control over the placement while allowing the end user the ability to zoom.

You can turn on Precision Mode in the Properties pane. Just set Layout from Tiled to Precision. Your object will change so that they have points (similar to MS Visio if you are familiar with that tool). You can then move the objects exactly where you want them. You can use the Size and Position on the pane if you prefer to want to align objects.


This issue also underlines another point I like to make about dashboard design, iterate! Once you have a working design ask your user community to look at it. It assists with uncovering issues like the one Alan has noted.

Serving Invisible Pie

In my Planning your SAS Visual Analytics Dashboard post, I suggested using a single table cell and noted it did not work great. Alan has a more ingenious solution, use a pie chart. Here’s his suggestion:

“Instead, try with a pie chart – this is the only element (as far as I know) where you can get rid of the borders. Use a white fill color on a white background and the pie chart will become “invisible” only showing the actual values (tick mark ‘Show actual values’ in the data label setting on the properties pane). So I guess the pie chart can be a useful graph anyway.”

In SAS VA 7.3, I loaded the SASHELP.CARS dataset for this technique. You can only use a single value for this technique, so I changed the MPG (Highway) to Aggregation of Average and Format = Float and adjusted the numbers.

  1. Add a Pie Chart object to your layout. Drag Origin to the Category role and drag the modified MPG (Highway) to Measures role.
  2. In the Properties pane, make the following changes to your pie chart object so that is resembles the figure below:

    • Add a title like KPI1 and make it bold. Set the font size to 18 pt.
    • Uncheck the Show label checkbox.
    • Check the Show actual values checkbox.
    • Set Data label location to Inside.
    • Uncheck Show legend.
  3. In the Style pane, change the following so it resembles this unsightly figure:

    • Change the Font family to a larger, boxy font (such as Impact, Agency FB).
    • Change the Value so the size is 60 pt and set the color you want.
    • Reset the first Fill color to White.  You can set the first three colors to white if your value is showing in a different pie slice.
  4. In the Filter pane, add a filter for Origin = Asia so the object is displaying a single value. Then … va_designvsreal_05

I love this technique because it is so elegant and clever.  You know what I also love?  SAS USERS! No other product I have used has the same amount of support and sharing of information. If you cannot figure out how to solve an issue, just look around there is someone who does.  Thanks Alan.

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