Bad info-graphic: Ikea shopping hours chart


Matt says:

This is a picture of Ikea's "Optimal" shopping hours. At first glance, it seems like a good idea, and a good chart to follow. If you actually try to figure it out though, it makes no sense. It appears to be a 12 hour clock, but it also appears to reference 24 hour time. What?


  1. you need one more piece of information: the hours of the store. given what’s there i would assume they’re open from 10-9 M-F, 9-9 Sat, and 10-8 Sun. So you can read all the charts by starting at 9am and going clockwise back to 9pm.

    Takes a little thinking, but I can’t come up with a better way to present the information off the top of my head.

    I think the average Ikea shopper (maybe not the average Walmart shopper) should be able to figure those charts out.

  2. It makes sense given the extra information in the comments here, but I would never think to start reading a clock at the 9. We’re trained to start reading a clock at the top (12).

    It wouldn’t take much to make this more explanitory, though. Either a bit of text reading:
    Mon-Fri 10am-9pm
    Sat 9am-9pm
    Sun 10am-8pm


    putting “AM” or “PM” next to each of the numbers around the clock (and an “AM/PM” next to the 9, I suppose)

  3. Yikes, that’s really horrid. Using the clock-face we all know, but “starting” at a funny place, and having part of it represent AM time and part PM time. It’s remarkably confusing.

    I’d have done a 24-hr clockface and confused everybody other than myself even more, I suspect.

  4. The graphics work because the time that they are open never overlap between am and pm.

    Look at your watch: Oh it’s 10:30
    Look at the chart at 10:30

    They still make you go huh? though. Is it that we are used to having these things overlap between am and pm?

    I agree- an ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ tag next to the number would probably help.

  5. You can make sense of this if you have to, but who would?

    The big failure is this kind of signage is supposed to take virtually zero time to read.

    The designer hung on to their clock metaphor into the land of ridiculousness.

    Clock Faces are habitually read in one kind of way, trying to overlay it with another order of info is only going to get you in trouble.

    If they used a vertical segmented list like a day planner, we would get times of operation and people volume in one place and we wouldn’t have to reverse engineer the clock/pie chart mashup.

    Though saying that I want to make an even more obtuse clock/pie chart mashup :)

  6. Confusing as hell. But not far off. Could be fixed by:

    1) appending “am” or “pm” onto the numbers
    2) putting a clockwise arrow near the 9, to show that the clock starts there.

    Still, that’s less than elegant, and not really acceptable. Colored bar charts suggesting a timeline would be vastly preferable.

  7. Makes perfect sense to me.

    Even if the start/end times could be confusing, the message is clear: Ikea on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon is just a bad idea. Go during the week instead.

  8. Being a Tufte fan and loving information design, sometimes a graphic just isn’t necessary. There are only 3 important data items, so why waste ink?

    Wouldn’t a sign like this be a faster read?

    For a more humane experience, come in during our least busy hours:

    Monday – Friday 10a – 7p
    Saturday 9a – 1p
    Sunday 10a – noon

  9. It’s cool in the sense that it overloads info (i.e., uses a pie chart both as a clock and to indicate which days have what percentage of the various volume types.

    However, that’s also the problem with it… it’s both a pie chart and a clock and it takes the viewer a few moment of the data flipping back & forth in the mind like one of those faces/vases graphics.

  10. the only nitpick i can find is that the day headings above each pie graphic should list the actual store hours (e.g. open 9am – 9pm). otherwise, this sign is perfectly cromulent.

  11. The problem is that clockfaces normally show AM or PM but not both. So a clockface is not a good visual metaphor to show both AM and PM.

    I agree that this could all be said much more simply: Ikea is most crowded on weekend afternoons, and least crowded in the daytime on weekdays.

  12. while i appreciate hyper-criticalness in most instances…..

    not so much on this one.

    i’m guessing that matt figured it out. i’m guessing that most boingboing readers figured it out. perhaps it even challenged you to do some critical thinking in combining a pie graph with a clock.

  13. kuanes,

    I see your point about hyper-criticalness… but for me, and I suspect many BB readers, it’s a productive exercise and not just nit-picking. Many of us are involved with presenting data to users/readers/or-what-have you. For those of us in this situation, it doesn’t matter so much that someone can figure out the info–it’s a question of whether this is an interesting, clear, & efficient way to communicate the data

  14. I understand all the reasons that this is a technically bad info-graphic.

    But, still, it made immediate sense to me. I know it shouldn’t, but it did.

  15. I actually kind of like it, though it could probably be improved by making it less pie chart-like. Maybe hollow out the middle, make some faint notches around the perimeter to denote the hours of the clock, and it ought to work just fine.

    Presented in clock form, it sticks in my mind much better than it would as a list of numbers or a timeline. Of course, given how little information there actually is to present, you could just as easily say “Weekends and evenings are busy. You could save a lot of time by buying your fake wood laminate in the off hours.”

  16. I just don’t like it – a circle implies continuity, so it’s weird to have a 12-hour jump hidden inside the graphic. And, as noted by others, we don’t have any background for reading a clock that is part AM and part PM.

    You could make it more readable, though still disturbing, by adding “Noon” as a label above the 12, maybe with a heavy line .

    You could do a circle that showed the whole 24 hours, with half of it (plus 0, 1, or two hours) shown as closed. That’s clearest, but wastes half the circle, of course.

    It would be nice to avoid having separate charts for weekdays, Saturday, and Sunday. If you did concentric circles for the three patterns, that might make it look more chart-like and less clock-like, which would avoid the confusion.

    How about three concentric 24-hour arcs – just the part of the 24-hour clock that the store is open (the rest of the circle omitted)?

  17. These infographics seem fine to me, given that the store is not open more than 12 hours a day.
    How would you better display this information?

    I would have probably removed the “closed” segment of the pie chart, making it more like a pacman.
    Saturday is a bit tougher though, as the store opens from 9 to 9…

  18. For those of you who are of the “it’s-clear-to-me-so-what’s-your-problem?” frame of mind… when discussing UI you have to step outside yourself. The point isn’t really whether it is perfectly clear to a given person–the point is whether the graphic is generally the best way to present the info. I’d be surprised if this graphic came out of usability testing with good marks.

    For example, what time does the store open on Saturday? Not obvious at a glance… it’s easier to figure out the other days because they have a “closed” slice of pie, but Saturday doesn’t. So the reader must look at the other days, notice they open (presumably) at 9am and then make the assumption that Saturday is the same.

  19. Oops… the other days open at 10am, so the reader doesn’t have that to go on. S/he must simply assume/guess that it’s 9am.

  20. The confusion about Saturday open/close times doesn’t matter. No one shops then.

    I don’t think anyone here is arguing that this is the optimal way to show the info. But it’s posted as a confusing example and plenty of folks here don’t find it at all confusing, given it’s purpose.

    Stop looking at it from an uber-geek perspective and pretend to be just a normal person. (That’s not directed at a specific individual, just a general recommendation.) In other words “step outside yourself.”

    The chart is designed to show one thing, when it’s busy. Normal people are just going to say, oh, it’s really busy from 1 to 7 on Saturdays. They’re not going to say, oh I wish this was three concentric circles synced to Internet time with the color intensity values mapped to mean customer density.

  21. There is nothing wrong with this chart. Not from a “UI” perspective, not from any other perspective.

    If you think of a “day” in terms of hours when most people are active (morning to evening) then this graphic is clear.

    To place this information in a 24-hour context or explicate opening and closing hours per day would be -absolutely- clear, but c’mon, we’re not robots.

  22. Wouldn’t it be easier just to have a sign saying “we get really busy on weekend afternoons?” – or no sign at all, since that’s true of every shop and everyone already knows it?

  23. How about a RIPOFF chart showing how much they net when charging almost $250 shipping on a $99 item that DHL could pick up and deliver for under $20?

    I guess that’s what I get for living more than 150 miles from the closest IKEA in the States.

  24. No one has mentioned this yet…what about scale? An important feature of any graphic that intends to faithfully convey information is a consistent scale. The Saturday chart which fails to include a slice for closed, skews the relative proportions that comprise that pie.

    Also, comparing Sunday to weekdays: the Sunday hours have Ikea closed for 14 hours, Saturday is 13 hours. This is 7.69% longer, however visually, it would appear that the store is closed twice as long. To the people saying “its not that hard” please read the comments re: usability across the population.

    Whether you can understand it or not (i think we all can derive the necessary info…) the fact is that it is internally inconsistent due to lacking a clear scale and thus is a flawed and IMO poor graphic.

  25. You know, as much as y’all might be hating the graphic, …you all looked at it.

    And you’re talking about it.

    AND you’re discussing it on one of the most widely-read web forums.

    Good or bad, its design is engaging. With that, I’d say it’s pretty effective.


  26. I had no problem quickly grasping the information they were trying to get across – which was NOT what hours they are open but rather when it’s really busy. In fact what took me the most time was trying to figure out what folks would have a problem with. And for those who suggested writing out the information in English that wouldn’t help non-English speakers a bit. And as far as the clock face being a bit different, so what, what counts in this graphic is the colors and they correspond to traffic lights. Quite simple and almost elegant solution to getting their point across IMHO

  27. I understand why folks would say this is bad information design, but I, too, understood it instantly. Maybe it’s not as arcane as the “this is horrible” folks think.

  28. The engrish is somewhat subtle as well: “choose the most suitable time for your utmost shopping experience”

    Utmost shopping experience? The greatest degree of shopping experience?

  29. I think the closure of the first post (“I think the average Ikea shopper (maybe not the average Walmart shopper) should be able to figure those charts out.”) may be more relevant than realized:

    if you can’t figure this diagram out, then you won’t be able to figure the IKEA assembly diagrams out, therefore IKEA would prefer you not shop there and then later complain about their assembly diagrams

    this isn’t bad infographics – it’s a pre-emptive strike

  30. Maybe normal people like kfunque (#5) are trained to start reading the clock at the top (12), but the rest of us clock-slaves (erm, workers who punch in at 9am every morning, including the ikea person who made the chart) have been brainwashed. Every day starts at 9am and ends at 9pm. :)

  31. > a circle implies continuity, so it’s weird to have a 12-hour jump

    Yes – a thick black line at 9 would help. Maybe even with “am” above it and “pm” below.

    > NOT what hours they are open but rather when it’s really busy

    It’s both, but it does a really bad job of showing the hours on Saturday.

  32. The confusion about Saturday open/close times doesn’t matter. No one shops then.

    LOL, but Tommy that’s the entire point of the graphic–to display the times when the store isn’t crowded!

    Again, the argument that 1/2 the readers don’t find it confusing is actually pretty damning. That means 1/2 of the users do find it confusing–surely we can have higher usability standards than that!

  33. The graph made sense to me immediately, but here’s an interesting twist on this: maybe grasping the graph quickly has something to do with whether you are used to a 24 hour clock or a 12 hour clock (AM/PM)? I’m Scandinavian (like IKEA) and we use the 24 hour clock here.

    On the other hand, you would think that having a 24 hour clock in your head as the default would throw you off even more since they’re using 9 to represent both 0900 and 2100.

    Actually, looking at the graph again, I think it might have more to do with your personal perception of how time flows. So you start at nine in the morning, which makes sense since the shop probably opens up then, you advance through the day as you move through the face of the clock, and you stop again at nine. Usually when I look at even a digital output of a clock like 14:30 I have a mental image of the hours hand halfway to 3 and the minutes hand pointing straight down at 6.

    Of course none of these musings are any absolution for the designer of the graph, because if the information is in English, it most likely belongs to a store that’s located in a 12 hour time abiding country, and you can’t rely on the reader having the same spatial/visual concept of time as you do.

  34. Seems pretty easy to me, if you come during the middle of the day Saturday or Sunday, expect it to be crowded.

    If you want lots of elbow room, come early or during the week.

    What’s the issue?

  35. Some have asked how to do this more clearly. Seems to me that three horizontal or vertical bars, numbered for the relevant open hours, would do the trick. Same information, same basic presentation, but avoiding the use of an implied clock face makes misplaced assumptions less likely. I should add that, at least for me, I tend to think of time as a linear progression (like on a bar) rather than a circular event.

  36. Forget the dodgy implementation – it’s a good move by them to attempt to convey the volume of shoppers at any given time.

    Once, whilst waiting over half an hour to be attended by customer services, I suggested that they publicise the peak shopping hours so that crowd haters like me could avoid the crush.

    I’d like to think they took my suggestion on board, but as I’m in the UK and this is presumably in the US, I guess it’s not so.

    The message is clear enough – Don’t go to IKEA at the weekend – it is HELL.

  37. Agreed, Elbee at #37… Buried at #12 mocked up something like you describe:

    Buried’s mockup

    It’s not as nifty as the clock/pie-chart… but’s it’s a lot clearer.

    Again, again… to those of you who found the clock/pie-chart immediately perfectly clear–that’s not the point. The point is that a good percentage of people don’t (and in usability, a significant minority who finds something confusing trumps a majority who don’t).

    Basically you’re either arguing that we’re wrong about finding it confusing (which is a silly thing to argue) or it doesn’t matter that we find it confusing (probably true it the greater scheme of things, but if the discussion is data presentation and/or usability then it does matter).

    The question is, do a significant percentage of people find Buried’s mockup confusing? If not, then it is the better presentation of of the data.

  38. Just put the whole IKEA in a flat pack and have it shipped away.

    I hate their crappy stuff. Everything I ever bought there broke.

  39. I prefer the linear representation, but also believe the existing presentation would be 90% redeemed by a strong bold line going from the center of the circle, out through the “9”, and with “AM” and an arrow on one side and “PM” and another arrow on the other.

    The major problem is that the chart doesn’t make sense for defining open/closed hours, and so doesn’t properly tell us where the “date line” on the graphic lies.

    Although it is purportedly aimed at planning when you come in, it seems better suited for giving current status. By which I mean, you get there at 3:00 in the afternoon, and you can see that you’re right in the middle of the “red” area. You might also see that that red area lasts a few more hours, and you’ll plan on coming back later. It utterly fails, however, at giving you the most important (to you) planning information, which is: these are the hours you should come to our store if you don’t want to be caught in a mob.

  40. I agree with the “good enough” votes.

    Is it an elegantly designed graph that quickly conveys the information you need? hmmm…yes and no.

    The longer you look at it, the more you think about it, the worse it gets.

    If all you want to know are the good (or bad) hours to shop at Ikea, then it works. Find the green (or red) slice, and see what time it starts and ends. This is what the designer had in mind.

    If you’re trying to figure out the store hours from the graph, which (hopefully) wasn’t a design goal, then it fails. You need to think about it, compare graphs and assume the 9-9 for Saturday (what if they are actually open 9am-10pm?).

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  42. I suspect that this has garnered nearly 50 posts (so far) because of the intensity of feeling that those of us who hate and cannot understand this stupid graphic experience. That, and our frustration and sense of being cut off from those of you who do seem to understand this graphic.

    I have to say that at first glance, I thought I understood the graphic, in a sort-of superficial “oh, I guess they’re really busy during weekend afternoons,” way – seeing the red pie slice as some sort of visual exclamation point. But then I began to ask myself if I could figure out from this odd chart when the store is actually open. Um … let’s see …. They close for one hour on weekdays (from 9 to 10 p.m.) and for two hours on Sunday (from 8 to 10 p.m.)

    Or … at least that’s how it looks to me. I strongly suspect that those of you who do understand the graphic are probably also capable of seeing the images in those godawful alleged “magic pictures.” Well, sir, I hail from the lands of Astigmatia and Dyslexia, and I’ll have none of your left-brained deviltry!

  43. This is a brilliant chart. Very elegant. A visual example of an ironic saying like: “Its a good deal when both parties think they’ve made a bad deal”.

  44. Oh, I’m so confused. Why are all these people shopping at Ikea at 3 AM?

    Also, I find the phrase “utmost shopping experience” personally offensive. Why is nobody complaining about that?

  45. Funny.

    This would never happened if angloamerican people were using 24 hours days, instead of 12AM and 12PM hours.

    Things are more simplier this way.

    Sorry, I’m French.

  46. didn’t confuse me at all. it never occurred to me to treat it like a clock. on the contrary, any added markings or differentiation would turn it into a confusing mess for someone like me.

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