Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Emmanuel Agu, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Alex Endert, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Lane Harrison, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Elke Rundensteiner, Committee Member




The growing number of interactive visualizations on the web has made it possible for the general public to access data and insights that were once only available to domain experts. At the same time, this rise has yielded new challenges for visualization creators, who must now understand and engage a growing and diverse audience. To bridge this gap between creators and audiences, we explore and evaluate components of a design-feedback loop that would enable visualization creators to better accommodate their audiences as they explore the visualizations. In this dissertation, we approach this goal by quantifying, modeling and creating tools that manage people’s open-ended explorations of visualizations on the web. In particular, we: 1. Quantify the effects of design alternatives on people’s interaction patterns in visualizations. We define and evaluate two techniques: HindSight (encoding a user’s interaction history) and text-based search, where controlled experiments suggest that design details can significantly modulate the interaction patterns we observe from participants using a given visualization. 2. Develop new metrics that characterize facets of people’s exploration processes. Specifically, we derive expressive metrics describing interaction patterns such as exploration uniqueness, and use Bayesian inference to model distributional effects on interaction behavior. Our results show that these metrics capture novel patterns in people’s interactions with visualizations. 3. Create tools that manage and analyze an audience’s interaction data for a given visualization. We develop a prototype tool, ReVisIt, that visualizes an audience’s interactions with a given visualization. Through an interview study with visualization creators, we found that ReVisIt make creators aware of individual and overall trends in their audiences’ interaction patterns. By establishing some of the core elements of a design-feedback loop for visualization creators, the results in this research may have a tangible impact on the future of publishing interactive visualizations on the web. Equipped with techniques, metrics, and tools that realize an initial feedback loop, creators are better able to understand the behavior and user needs, and thus create visualizations that make data and insights more accessible to the diverse audiences on the web.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Computer Science

Project Type


Date Accepted





data visualization, human-computer interaction