The adage “a picture is worth more than a thousand words” is universal. When done right, what takes pages of painstaking prose or drab figures can be communicated much more powerfully through an image that covers the entire story in a single view.
As marketing, customer service, finance and other professionals cutting across organizations need to interact with data and analyze it as a matter of routine, data visualization tools helps in making smarter decisions and improving productivity. Ranging from simple charts to logistic regression analysis, and from heat maps to geospatial analysis, these tools help by clearly (and visually) explaining the relationship between different variables, revealing trends and patterns and offering other actionable insights.
The catch lies in getting data visualization right. Poorly created visualizations, far from making analysis easy, can mislead users and make analysis of data even more difficult, culminating in users losing confidence in their business intelligence (BI) systems. The following are some data visualization best practice tips that help users get the most out of data visualization tools.
Use the Right Elements
Effective data visualization that communicates the right message powerfully and with long lasting impact is an art. However, this art is grounded in scientific basis. The tone, color hue, color saturation, font, size, and background theme have a big say in making the data visually appealing. For instance, cool colors without color gradients do well as backgrounds, and warm colors represent data well. Smaller values are characteristically represented with less saturation whereas greater values by more saturation. Comparisons are best made using opposing colors.
Effective data visualization draw from advanced analytics and data discovery, and juxtapose technological advance, human cognition and perception, graphical interfaces, and accepted Internet standards.
Understand the Audience
People have an inherent bias in how they read and scan content. As a rule, the primary optical area is in the top left corner, and the terminal area on the bottom right. The strong fallow area is on top right, and the weak fallow area on bottom left. While using colors for comparisons and effective representation, it is worthwhile to consider that color blindness affects 10-18% of the male population.
The above are universal percepts. The target audience would have their own unique likes and preferences, based on demographics, culture and other factors. The Arabs, for instance, read from right to left, and this can turn traditional percepts on how people view and read content on its head. Such uniqueness needs to be factored in to make visual data effective.
Keep it Simple
Aesthetics has its role in making the data visually engaging. However, ensure the elements do not take away from the messaging. Misleading flourishes that communicate no new information and grid lines differentiated by both position and color are two common instances of unnecessary features that make a graphic attractive, yet dilute its effectiveness. The overriding motto is to keep it simple.
With the increasing use of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones for computing, it is important to optimize the delivery of data visualization for smaller screens, and to ensure that it gels well with any screen size. The design would need to incorporate responsive design, so that it displays well in any screen size.
Adopt a Drill-Down Approach
Any visual representation that goes over a page – or beyond a single view – defeats its very purpose. Having to scroll down or up, or move to the next page, reduces the ability to take in the data with a glance.
One way to overcome space crunch, when handling large swathes of information or many variables is to opt for drill-down features. Instead of featuring all variables upfront and complicating the visual landscape, businesses can present only the basic overview of the situation, and provide buttons that allow users to take a more in-depth look at information. The visualization would thus offer the big picture, and anyone wanting the details can drill down for the in-depth information.
While drill-down is the most effective method to communicate data that goes beyond a single view, it is not suitable on all occasions. At times, it becomes pertinent to explore other options such as cross-cut or slice to effectively communicate data that goes beyond a single view.
Data visualization tools enable presenting complex data in a simple and easy to understand format, allowing managers to make informed decisions. Conneqt Business Solutions offers flexible BI solutions across domains and industry verticals. Our solutions cover all bases, collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources and communicating the same in a consolidated, integrated, flexible, and user friendly way.