Flow Visuals

Flow visuals enable us to explore user behavior across a sequence of discrete time-stamped events, towards a defined goal. They only plot data that achieves this goal.

Flows are an implementation of a Sankey plot: blocks represent individual events, and the width of the connection is proportional to the size of the measurement connecting any two events. The plot is defined by a path, or sequence, through time-stamped events. To learn how to identify and define events of a dataset, see Events.

For contrast, see Funnel Chart.

Availability Notes:
  • Flow visuals are available in Arcadia Enterprise, not in Arcadia Instant.

For convenience, we divided this discussion into the following sections:

Best Practices

Keep in mind the following best-practices when defining the path of a flow visual:

  1. Use a single common event as a 'start' of the flow visual. This makes it easier to understand the sequencing and the pattern of the following events.
  2. Define the intermediate event to include more than one event type, and use range bounds (minimum and maximum) to correctly model the business use case. Also, ensure that the intermediate event excludes the end goal.
  3. Define the goal event to show the flow terminating when that goal is achieved.

Basic Flow Visual

The following steps demonstrate how to create a new flow visual on a dataset Campaign. This dataset is based on data previously imported into Arcadia from the datafile campaign.csv. For an overview of shelves that specify this visual, see Shelves for Flow Visuals.

  1. Start a new visual based on dataset Campaign; see Creating Visuals.
  2. In the visuals menu, find and click Flow.

    selecting flow chart type
  3. Note that the shelves of the visual changed. These are:
    • Time sorts events by the value of the timestamp.
    • Session uses the unique identifier, such as user ID, to track the events of a session.
    • Path specifies the series and order of the events; in this article, we use events that were previously defined in Events of the Campaign Dataset.
    • Measure aggregates the measure that controls for the thickness of the 'flow' connections, such as Record Count.
    • Filters selects for particular conditions.
    • Top K selects the top N number of entries.

    All shelves, except Filters and Top K, are mandatory.

    shelves of flow visual type
  4. Populate the shelves from the available Fields:

    • Under Dimensions, select timestamp and place it on the Time shelf.
    • Under Dimensions, select user_id and place it on the Session shelf.
    • Under Events, select Start and place it on the Path shelf. Similarly, add All non-purchase application events and Purchase, in that order.
    • Under Measures, select Record Count and place it on the Measure shelf.
    • Leave Filters and Top K empty.
    Populated shelves of the flow visual
  5. Click Refresh Visual.

  6. The flow visual appears.

    basic form of flow chart
    Flow Visual
  7. Click (pencil icon) next to the title of the visualization to edit it, and enter the new name.

  8. Change the title to Campaign - Flow.
  9. At the top left corner of the Visual Designer, click Save.

    clicking to save

Modeling the Min/Max Range of Events

Note that on the visual we just constructed, each connection has only two segments. This does not model the real business case, so let us refine the visual. To model more of the path that satisfies the event conditions, we need to modify the intermediate event, All non-purchase application events, on the Path shelf. Note that setting a higher maximum models more of the data.

  1. On the Path shelf, click the All non-purchase application events field.

  2. In the Event Properties menu, set Min Rage parameter to 0.

  3. Similarly, set the Max Range parameter to 5.

    setting multiple event options for intermediate events
    Set Minimum and Maximum Range for Intermediate Events
  4. Click Refresh Visual.

  5. The flow visual appears, showing multiple paths towards a Purchase outcome. Note that in this form, the numbered steps include the Purchase event along the way, and each Purchase block terminates the flow of connections that flow to it, in a step-down manner.

    flow chart intermediate events 0-5
    Flow Visual, Intermediate Events Range 0-5

Modeling the Goal Event

Notice also that we can specify the Goal of the flow visual, to generate a plot with a single terminating goal block. To do that, perform the following steps:

  1. On the Path shelf, click the Purchase field.
  2. In the Event Properties menu, click Set as Goal.
    setting goal event
    Set the Goal Event
  3. Click Refresh Visual.

  4. The flow visual appears, showing multiple paths towards the Purchase event.

    Note that in this form, the numbered steps exclude the Purchase event, which collects all flows on the extreme right, and then terminates them.

    flow chart with a single terminating goal block
    Flow Visual, Goal Set
  5. To remove the Goal option from an event, click the Purchase field on the Path shelf, and de-select the Set as Goal option.

    removing goal event
    Remove the Goal Event

Reorganizing the Flow Visual

You may wish to examine a particular business case scenario, such as how card impressions influence the final decision to purchase. To see this path, simply click on a flow leading to the first card impression, and the flow highlights the entire path.

If the path is complicated, you can change the order of the nodes in any step of the flow visual, simply by clicking on that node and dragging it up or down.

In Figure Changing the Node Order, with Goal, we demonstrate how you could re-arrange the flow visual, step-by-step, to highlight a specific path you wish to examine.

Flow Visual, Changing Node Order with Goal
Changing the Node Order, with Goal

In Figure Changing the Node Order, Without Goal, we removed the goal, and arranged the nodes to place all card impressions at the top, and all purchases at the bottom of each step.

Flow Visual, Changing Node Order without Goal
Changing the Node Order, Without Goal

Using Tooltips in Flow Visuals

The flow visual is very good at demonstrating a sequence of events, and the proportion of events that pass through a particular node. However, because it does not use an axis, there is no relative scale that conveys the actual size of measurements on the chart. Thus, tooltips become a very important component of the flow visual.

Consider the Tooltips in the following chart.

  • Tooltip 1 shows the information for the first card impression event: that there are exactly 4 items and that it represents 8.2% of the total.
  • Tooltip 2 demonstrates the correlation between the first two card impression events: that it represents half of the source and all of the target, as well as all of the link.
  • Tooltip 3, Tooltip 4, and Tooltip 5 are very interesting because they demonstrate that when the user starts their application interaction with card impression events, it typically takes 4 or 5 additional steps to get to a purchase event.
using flow visual - tooltips
Using the Flow Visual - Tooltips

Comprehensive Workflow Model

Lastly, remember that flow visuals only show data that achieves the desired goal, in the specified number of steps. The following image shows only 5 intermediate steps (specified as maximum), and contain 48 purchases altogether.

Flow visual with 5 intermediate steps
Flow Visual with 5 Intermediate Steps

Contrast this with a visual that covers 10 intermediate steps (specified as maximum); it contains 51 purchases.

Flow visual with 10 intermediate steps
Flow Visual with 10 Intermediate Steps