The business world is turning towards a data-oriented mindset, and showcasing statistics is essential to a successful organization. The question is: do your data visualizations make or break the message?
Data visualizations hold power. They can drive the point home with stone-cold numbers turned humane, or they can cast clouds of confusion over your meaning. They can communicate credibility that profits the perception of your brand, or they can invite doubt and questioning.
4 Ways to Improve Data Visualization
What good are data visualizations if they don’t make any sense? Here are four ways to improve your data visualizations.
You Need to Simplify
The simplest ideas are the easiest to understand. Remove any excess elements from your data visualizations, whether it’s 3D, chart junk, extra copy, unnecessary illustrations, funky fonts, polka dots, stripes. If you need to make a point try choosing bold or italics, but sparingly. Address each aspect of the data — does every piece play a key role in the data story? Keep headers and labels brief; all text should be concise and minimize room for confusion. There’s room for descriptive, compelling text either before or after your visualization, but not inside. The cleaner the better.
You Need to Clarify
Once the data visualization has been simplified, clarify it. Your visual format should depend on your unique data story and the relationships within. What does your data say, and why is it important? Research the most effective ways to showcase the particular comparisons you’re trying to make. As there are logical visual formats to match a particular data relationship, there are logical ways to order data. There should be rhyme and reason in your data set. Be sure to order information intuitively, consistently, and evenly. Intuitive ordering involves alphabetical, sequential, or numerical sequencing your data; any kind of order where your viewer’s mind could fill in the blanks. That being said, the data should continue to follow the same pattern–keep it consistent.
Don’t keep your viewers’ guessing, play off their logic.
You Need to Command Attention
Draw the viewer’s attention to the most relevant parts of your data visualization. Take a step back–what simple adjustments could lead your viewer to a faster understanding? As previously mentioned, how can you play off the viewer’s logic and help them fill in the blanks? Once you’ve clarified your point, make it obvious. Draw attention by adding a trend-line. Solid lines are the most powerful and confident, where dashes could imply multiple meanings.
- READ MORE: The Brand Benefits of Data Visualization
The role of color is huge in commanding attention as well as creating confusion. Use the same color for same types of data and your viewer will tie these data sets together in their mind. Use contrast–not too little, not too much. Too little contrast clouds difference, but too much can lead to misinterpretation. For example, green is commonly perceived as positive while red is negative. Consider the ways in which our minds are color-coded in order to guide attention to the most relevant spaces of your data visual.
Comparisons will give your data context. How does your current data relate to your past data? What about competitor’s data? How does it relate to the world? Use comparisons to emphasize the meaning behind your data, but make sure your reader isn’t juggling too many comparisons. The key to comparison is consistency. Stick to the same visual format, whether it’s bar charts, line graphs, side-by-side, stacked, or grouped data. Consistent visuals allow the reader to compare at a glance.
In the end, the greater the context, the better you can tell a story with data. You must deeply understand your data in order to create effective visuals. By simplifying, clarifying, commanding attention, and comparing, you interact with the statistics and gain a deeper level of understanding while building artifacts for your brand. What are your tips for creating great data visualizations?