The Data Visualisation Catalogue

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Treemaps are an alternative way of visualising the hierarchical structure of a Tree Diagram while also displaying quantities for each category via area size. Each category is assigned a rectangle area with their subcategory rectangles nested inside of it.

When a quantity is assigned to a category, its area size is displayed in proportion to that quantity and to the other quantities within the same parent category in a part-to-whole relationship. Also, the area size of the parent category is the total of its subcategories. If no quantity is assigned to a subcategory, then it's area is divided equally amongst the other subcategories within its parent category.

The way rectangles are divided and ordered into sub-rectangles is dependent on the tiling algorithm used. Many tiling algorithms have been developed, but the "squarified algorithm" which keeps each rectangle as square as possible is the one commonly used.

Ben Shneiderman originally developed Treemaps as a way of visualising a vast file directory on a computer, without taking up too much space on the screen. This makes Treemaps a more compact and space-efficient option for displaying hierarchies, that gives a quick overview of the structure. Treemaps are also great at comparing the proportions between categories via their area size.

The downside to a Treemap is that it doesn't show the hierarchal levels as clearly as other charts that visualise hierarchal data (such as a Tree Diagram or Sunburst Diagram).