About Heat Maps

How To Read A Box Heat Map

Box heat maps represent information from databases and spreadsheets visually as rectangles, with important characteristics of individual data items used to determine the size, color and layout of the rectangles. In general:

Grouped Heat Map
  • Size maps to relevance. For instance, the size of an opportunity or the total budget for a project.
  • Color maps to urgency. For instance, the potential upside of an opportunity, the cost or time overrun on a project, risk levels, or the number of security incidents at a network site.
  • Grouping of rectangles is tied to category information. For instance, department, manager, location, or type of product or application.

When these three visual cues are combined in a heat map, it becomes straightforward to:

Tree Map
  • Identify which information is the most important. For example, the opportunities or threats that involve the largest financial impact, since the associated rectangle or group of rectangles is large.
  • See urgent issues.  Particularly high risks or overruns can be easily seen, since the associated rectangles have a color that stands out from other data.
  • Discover trends or interesting patterns. Higher or lower performance or risk associated with a particular region, manager or type of product shows up as groups of cells that stand out. Grouping related records together spatially allows detailed data represented by size or color to be seen in context.