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Data Visualization - Look at More Than Numbers

Friday, September 04, 2015

Data visualization is exactly what it sounds like—presenting data in a graphic format. It allows us to easily understand and interpret data, without having to do tedious numerical analysis, and trying to decode a huge report. Details do matter, but being able to see quick top-level metrics is something that helps businesses make decisions each and every day. People often spend far too much time just looking at data, that they end up getting lost in the minutiae of all the numbers.

Are you still looking at just the numbers in reports? If you don’t want to be one of those people, then here are some things to keep in mind when compiling and visualizing your data.

Know Your Audience

Just like in marketing, understanding your audience, and knowing exactly who is examining the data will help you tailor it to their needs, and guide your process. In doing so, you should be able to create data visuals from which people can derive actionable steps within minutes of looking at it. This is the time to ask internal questions like “what story am I trying to tell others?” While the use of graphs and charts is commonplace, it’s not always a necessity. Don’t create them just because you can. It is crucial, however, to put together visuals that tell a story, and give you actionable insights.

Play With Design

The design aspect is obviously an important part of successful data visualization. Consider utilizing multiple types of visuals for displaying the data. A bar graph might not display as well as a bubble chart or pie chart.  You should be mindful of using the appropriate colors and sizes as well. In fact, the more you experiment and play with the design, the better you can understand the data. The design process directly ties in to knowing your audience, so don’t incorporate extraneous elements that simply don’t make sense to the viewer and are irrelevant. Present only the information that is absolutely critical, the data that will help in making decisions. In short, keep it simple.

Examine Platforms

Knowing how the viewer will be accessing the data—via smartphone, computer, tablet, etc, will help you come up with an appropriate plan of action for the best way to present it. Based on this, you can determine how much and what type of information can be displayed at different sizes. If there is an element of interactivity with the data, you will have to think about the user experience, how easy it is to view and keep track of the data.

All in all, presenting simple, straightforward data that tells a story is the winning strategy in data visualization. Complicating it with endless and irrelevant facts and figures will make it almost impossible to gain any actionable insights, and in turn to make good decisions. 

Jason Bishop

Written by Jason Bishop

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