The associative model is definitely one of the best features in the Qlik platform. It is simple, elegant and intuitive but, at the same time, it is a very powerful tool that helps us unveil the stories behind our data.
When I attended my very first QlikView training, I remember Karl Pover used a generic demo called Movies Database to explain the navigation schema. Even though the app wasn’t exactly breathtaking, it was a great way to understand that every selection turns green, the associated elements remain white, and the unrelated items become gray.
From that day on, every time I had to explain the associative model, I relied on the always-available, rarely-updated but still-pretty-good, Movies Database demo that is installed with any version of QlikView. Up until now…
A couple of weeks ago, I was working with Daniela Lucero, one of the youngest consultants in our team, when I realized that my examples about The Matrix, Fight Club and Titanic were not making much sense to her because… well, she was 3 years old when those movies came out… So, we decided to take advantage of the Qlik REST Connector and refresh this old classic.
Daniela: Hello everyone, I’m Daniela and I’ll be using the orange font throughout this post! We took this opportunity to experiment with some atypical features in QlikView. To start with, we chose a dark background (which is usually a big gamble). We also decided to hide the tab row and use a custom-built menu instead, explore different wireframes, and use eye-catching visualizations such as infographics, image-based tables and even some extensions.
As usual, we’ll walk you through the most relevant features in the app (download here or here) while sharing technical recipes and useful tips regarding data visualization. We had a lot of fun creating this app, so we hope you like it!
The Movie DB & Qlik REST Connector
Getting a robust, flexible and reliable data source can be pretty difficult sometimes. However, we found an amazing website called The Movie DB, a community edited database that offers an API to interact with a lot of information about movies and TV series.
Using the Qlik REST Connector, you can easily create scripts that cycle through the years, movies and actors to gather all the data you need and store it in QVD files. We won’t go into much detail in this post, but be sure to check out or QVD Generator to know more about this process!
Welcome Page: The power of Text Objects
The welcome page usually gives the users general information about the contents of the app. We decided to start our adventure by sharing the number of movies, actors, directors and genres available in the data model alongside our two protagonists: The Movie DB and Qlik REST Connector. The interesting thing here is that the entire tab was built using exclusively Text Objects.
These little guys are amongst the most flexible objects in the QlikView realm. You can use them as labels, type in a formula to display a KPI, convert them into images or add some actions to create a button. You can even adjust the order of the layers and use them as backgrounds or containers.
QlikTip #1: Create visual hierarchies
As a QlikView designer, it’s important to establish visual hierarchies that guide the users through each of the sections in your dashboards. How? Well, you can start by mixing different fonts, sizes and colors; maybe even adding some borders. The idea is to create “chunks” of information that “belong together” and highlight the most relevant things. Remember to manage the white space wisely and advantage of the Gestalt principles of Similarity, Proximity and Enclosure.
QlikTip #2: Alignment & Distribution
QlikView’s design toolbar offers useful options for alignment and distribution, so there is no excuse for not having a tidy dashboard. If you take care of the quadrature of all the charts and filters, your interface will display a clean and professional look that all the users will appreciate.
The magic behind QlikView: The Associative Model
Who directed Sweeny Todd? Tim Burton. Who was the protagonist? Johnny Depp. Have they worked together in other films? Yes, Alice in Wonderland, Sleepy Hollow and some others! Wow. Yep, it’s as simple as that.
Our second tab focuses on explaining how to navigate in QlikView. I’m sure that many of you also learned the green-white-gray paradigm using these three boxes, so I’ll leave this one to you.
QlikTip #3: Contextual Menu
When you instruct someone on how to navigate in QlikView, don’t forget to mention the Select Possible, Select Excluded and Clear Other Fields options available by right clicking on the filters. They’re incredibly useful!
On to the analysis: Statistics Page
Our next stop is full of charts and tables. This page dives into more detail and presents histograms, trendlines and rankings using several metrics such as the length, rating and revenue of the movies.
Don’t forget to check the alternative pages by clicking on the buttons in the upper right corner of the screen!
QlikTip #4: Hidden Filter Pane
The users must always have easy access to the most relevant filters in an app. However, sometimes there’s so much information that it’s impossible to present everything at once. Using a container object and a button linked to a variable, we can create an easy-to-navigate filter pane that show all our fields on demand.
QlikTip #5: Consistency
Have you noticed that despite being different, all the tabs follow certain structure? It’s not an accident that all the colors, titles, alignment, fonts and styles look very similar. Our brain loves consistent and aligned stuff, so whenever you’re designing an interface, don’t forget to define (and follow) your own rules and standards. This will create clean and elegant visualizations that everyone will enjoy.
Movies & Actors Pages: Did someone ask for details?
This is probably the most interesting page in terms of visual design. Although, to be honest, most of the work wasn’t ours: The Movie DB provides lots of media resources such as posters, photos and trailers!
We don’t use this feature very often, but don’t forget that table expressions can be represented as images or URLs. What if, instead of displaying a boring list of all the countries where a movie was produced, we use dynamic icons with flags? Or if we add a picture of the actors alongside their names and characters?
QlikTip #6: Extensions
If you really want to take your dashboards to the next level, be sure to visit Qlik Branch to learn more about how to create and use extension objects in both QlikView and Qlik Sense. If you activate the Web View and press the YouTube button in the upper corner, you’ll be able to see the trailers of hundreds of films directly within this app.
QlikTip #7: Use your imagination
Try to mix and match multiple native objects to create something completely new. For example, overlapping a text object over a bar chart can help you create a simple (yet quite interesting) infographic to represent the movie rating with stars (more about infographics in this post).
You don’t need to be an expert in visual design to do this kind of things. We actually created this object using only PowerPoint and Paint, so why don’t you give it a shot?
About the menus
I’m pretty sure you’ve already discovered how the menu works, but here it goes: each page is a separate QlikView sheet. Each sheet has a different background (you can find all these images in the Background folder). When you click on the bubbles in the left, you’re actually clicking a transparent button that has an action called Activate Sheet that imitates the behavior of the traditional tab row in the upper part of the screen.
Extra tip: Since I’m not very good with Photoshop or Illustrator, I always build my backgrounds using QlikView. If you add the Sheets toolbar (right click on the blue area), you’ll be able to activate a sheet called Menu.
Here, you will see that these fancy bubbles are nothing more than (once again) overlapped text objects. After changing some colors and adjusting the alignment and distribution, you just have to press Print Screen and that’s it 😉
By the way, most of the tips we shared here today are covered in depth in my book Creating Stunning Dashboards with QlikView, so be sure to check it out!
For God’s sake… Here he goes again…
But anyways, I’d like to thank Daniela for her collaboration in today’s post (and by “collaboration” I mean building 90% of this app). Hopefully we’ll see more of her work here at QlikFreak.
Thanks a lot Julian, it’s been a pleasure. If you liked this app, don’t forget to share it with your friends and colleagues!
Thanks for reading. Keep Qliking!!!