I see lots of chatter on Twitter and other media about the use of “small multiples” as a great way to communicate information across different subsets of data – yes Jeff Weir(d), that means you. I thought I would write a quick article about the concept to draw your awareness to small multiples (in case you don’t already know about it) and to show you what a great job Zebra BI does in delivering this concept via its custom visuals. There are actually 2 custom visuals from Zebra BI. The one used below is Zebra BI Charts, but there is another called Zebra BI Tables. These visuals do a lot more than just small multiples, but that will need to wait for another day. The 2 visuals are similar yet different – you can read more at Microsoft Appsource.
Zebra BI Custom Visuals
I have known Andrej Lapajne, the owner and CEO of Zebra BI for many years. His company has been around long before Power BI was a product. The earlier versions were built for Microsoft Excel, hence Zebra BI has had literally years and years of experience in visualising data in a compelling way that users want to see. All of this learning and experience is available for you now via the 2 custom Power BI visuals I mentioned above, and one of the cool things is can do in the chart visual is render small multiples.
Post COVID Performance of Top Companies
Andrej shared a copy of a report that he built which uses the small multiples concept to show relative performance of top company stocks since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. I took the work that Andrej did and modified the report so that it works over the Australian Stock Market. Here is that report hosted live at PowerBI.com. You can maximise the report by clicking the expand button in the bottom right hand corner. Note there are actually 2 pages.
The Principle of Small Multiples
Below is an image of the live report. You can see a selection of small multiples in a grid that is 5 wide by 4 high, giving a total of 20 variations based on different companies. One of the features of small multiples is that they are locked in to have the same scale, even though there are many (multiple) charts. This standardised axis means that you can look at the shape and size of any of the multiples and visually compare the difference with any other chart in the set. This is very powerful indeed.
As at the time of this article, Microsoft does not have a standard visual that supports small multiples, but frankly the Zebra BI visual does a cracking job at it anyway. This is a premium visual that comes with a cost, but you can get a free version to get you started and evaluate the benefit, then buy a licence if you see value for the organisation.
You can find out more about Zebra BI custom visuals from the links provided in the interactive report above. Just open the report and navigate to the second page to see the links for further information.