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Sankey Diagrams and Flow: Over A Hundred Years of Innovation

From our initial limited release of Flow Visualization in October to our recent release to all customers, we have received a lot of positive feedback from our customers. The idea of using Sankey diagrams and applying them to traffic through a website seems to resonate with you. Thank you! We’ve heard all your suggestions and we’re busy cooking up great stuff in our labs for you. Stay tuned....

But, this post is about the other fellow innovators in graph visualization and the different ways that Sankey diagrams have influenced their research. Since Google has a deep and treasured relationship as part of the research community, we wanted to recognize their work to make it easy to understand vast quantities of data.

Many of us draw our inspiration from Charles Minnard’s 1869 work, epitomized by his diagram of Napolean’s March to Russia. Edward Tufte, who is well-known for his popular visualization books, calls Minnard’s work as “... probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn.”

It is truly amazing that this one visualization can show so many insights. Some of our colleagues even wrote in to tell us about their research:

(Over 170 other examples of Sankey Diagram applications can be found here:

If you haven’t seen the Flow Visualization reports yet, please login to your GA account and check out the Visitors Flow and Goal Flow reports. We hope you find them elegantly powerful.

Our hats are off to fellow visualizers - let’s make visualizing data easy!

Posted by Phil Mui, Google Analytics team

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