I’ve been using Klipfolio for about a decade and more recently, the SaaS version, a web platform for creating dashboards with precision data visualizations.
Since it emerged from beta last year, there has been plenty to complain about, but in hindsight, almost everything I tossed on their to-do list [by me] was pretty minor. Those little annoyanes and rough edges that all new software worthy of deep investigation seeme to have. But those were the speed bumps that you wouldn’t ordinarily discover unless you had a product that was valued so much by consultants (like me) and users (like you).
The latest version to hit the web clearly demonstrates that this company is in it for the long-haul. And with a heritage that dates back to 2002, it seems obvious from their newest improvements, I might still be writing about them in 2022.
The High Points
- Brand new Klip Editor and formula bar
- New XPath selector with custom XPath editor
- Klips now animate when data updates
- New Iframe and HTML components
- LinkedIn support
- New functions: URLENCODE, SORT, RANK, COUNTIF, SUMIF
Rather than drill into every one of these feature enhancements, let me point out that the first two are key improvements and the third one opens the floodgates to wild data visualizations. More on that later.
I use Klipfolio almost every day and as a consultant/visualization developer, I can honestly say that the design and build interface is almost as important as pixel placement for data visualization widgets.
The new Klip editor is light-years ahead of it’s predecessor. It factors in the likelihood that eventually your klips will become complex collections of business logic embedded in formulas. Creating a graphical widget for a dasboard, also known as a “klip”, is fundamentally an exercise in formula building akin to Microsoft Excel. Programming a dashboard is more like setting up a spreadsheet than writing lots of complex code and integration scripts.
In fact, there are no integration worries – Klipfolio provides a robust data integration model that allows you to wire up data sources in minutes. If you understand basic formula constructon and data tables, you’ll find yourself productive in a matter of hours. A while back I wrote about a simple mobile cature and reporting model featuring Klipfolio and iForm Builder. It was developed in a few hours and leverages iFormBuilder data using their XML interface and XPath.
And speaking of XPath, I prefer the simplicity and precision of dealing with XML data sources, and the new XPath editor is exactly what I was waiting for. Once the data you want to visualize is selected, properties panes similar to the one shown, provide a variety of opportunities to sculpt dashboard klips to provide colorful and easy-to-understand visualizations.
Not Just Mapping, Dynamic Mapping
Another new fature of late is the mapping klip which is based on SVG (a flavor of XML) that allows you to create dynamic visualizations that filter on data records depending on the area of the map you klip (or touch). Maps provide a wealth of oportunities for global, local, and even down to meters in a building if you have the need to provide that level of detail in a map widget. And there are two levels of dynamic abilities – clicking on a region can be used to create events that drive managers to new dashboard tabs, and they can also contain details about the underlying region in pop-over gizmos. I’ve even jammed some HTML into these pop-overs with excellent success.
HTML, CSS Integration
My beef with the earlier version was simple – there are times when basic features are simply not going to meet business requirements. We have an abundance of Web developers with proven skills in HTML and CSS. Most enterprises have teams of people that understand this body of knowledge. So why not open the barn doors and allow these highly skilled and creative developers a chance to create cool widgets and klips? And they did just that. There is no longer a “dashboard ceiling”; you can build just about anything you can imagine to provide data visualizations that your company or clients need.
Data Visualization Legos™
HTML and CSS integration couldn’t be more ideal or come at a better time. On the data integration side you have a rich set of tools that explode with productivity – XML, Google Docs, web services, Salesforce, DropBox, direct upload, SQL, and even Facebook – it’s all there. In the middle you have a comprehensive collection of functions that are easily assembled into high-precision information to drive a wide array of visualization components – bar charts, news readers, pie charts, dynamic and graphical grids. And sandwiched along side these components, the most important one of all – the boundless HTML klip. Now we’re gonna’ see some strange and some beautiful stuff happen!
Only one ding today – offline source code backup is still MIA. While the KlipFolio design tools do a marvelous job of insulating you from the tedium of code, there is code under the covers and you have full access to it. If you ever encounter a case where massive search and replace is required, this is the avenue to use. However, in a SaaS climate, it’s nice to take a snapshot of the code incase you (or they) experience a moment of disasterous data loss. Sure, you can copy and paste all your klip sources to a text editor for safe-keeping. But wouldn’t it be much better if I could simple Save Source As …?
My First Custom HTML Klip
Here’s the first custom klip I built – a knock-off some of my favorite custom widgets I created in a recent FileMaker Go BI project. A comment about iOS, specifically iPad – I note with great relief that they’ve drmatically improved the performance and general user experience in mobile Safari. I also ran a number of tests using the new iPad Chrome browser and it works great as well.
If you’re in need of KPIs and data visualizations that not only impress the crap out of the boss, but may actually encourage the boss to make better decisions (wink), get a Klipfolio account right away. Start building stuff.