Authors: Radu Jianu, Adrian Rusu, Yifan Hu, Douglas Taggart
Abstract: We present the results of evaluating four techniques for displaying group or cluster information overlaid on node-link diagrams: node coloring, GMap, BubbleSets, and LineSets. The contributions of the paper are three fold. First, we present quantitative results and statistical analyses of data from an online study in which approximately 800 subjects performed ten types of group and network tasks in the four evaluated visualizations. Specifically, we show that BubbleSets is the best alternative for tasks involving group membership assessment; that visually encoding group information over basic node-link diagrams incurs an accuracy penalty of about 25% in solving network tasks; and that GMap’s use of prominent group labels improves memorability. We also show that GMap’s visual metaphor can be slightly altered to outperform BubbleSets in group membership assessment. Second, we discuss visual characteristics that can explain the observed quantitative differences in the four visualizations and suggest design recommendations. This discussion is supported by a small scale eye-tracking study and previous results from the visualization literature. Third, we present an easily extensible user study methodology.