By John Rampton
If you’re investing time, money, and resources into collecting data, then you need to make sure you’re generating a positive return on that investment. This means bringing your data to life through engaging and informative visualizations. While big data may be thought of as a big company dilemma, small business owners have a significant amount of data that they can also leverage by breathing life into it.
Here are a few specific ways to bring that data to life for company of all sizes:
1. Use the right tools
“Imagine starting your day with a one-minute view of every metric that matters to your business, all visualized beautifully in easy-to-understand graphs and charts,” says datapine, a leader in data visualization software. “That’s the one minute you need to get an overview of your operations and make sure that your business is performing as expected.”
Sounds impossible, right? Well thankfully, you don’t have to tackle data visualizations on your own. There a number of tools available that streamline the process and allow even the most inartistic individual to develop stunning visuals.
These data visualization tools include three top solutions for non-developers, such as Datawrapper, Tableau Public, and Raw. Datawrapper allows you to upload data or paste it directly into fields and then generate interactive charts in bar, line, or any other preferred visual form. Tableau Public is a free data visualization tool that provides a way to easily translate your data into visual form like a map, chart, graph, or other graphic and then embed it in a Web page. Lastly, Raw is an open source data visualization tool that offers 16 chart types and bills itself as a solution for filling in the gap between spreadsheets and vector graphics. Because it is open source, it is highly customizable to create the type of visuals necessary to bring your data to life.
Choose the right tool and every workday could start and end with beautiful visuals that give you a comprehensive overview of your organization and what’s happening beneath the surface.
2. Begin with good data
The output of any process can only be as good as the input. For example, if you’re making a casserole, that casserole is only going to taste as good as the individual ingredients that you used to make it. If you used cheese that was well past its expiration date, then the casserole is going to taste terrible. But if you used freshly grated cheese from a local farmer’s market, then the casserole will taste fresh and homemade.
The same is true with data visualizations. Put bad data in and get poor results. Put good data in and get great results. Begin with good data that’s accurate, concise, and relevant to your final goals and outcomes. Otherwise, you’ll get less than stellar results.
3. Diversify your visuals
If you’re using the right data visualization tools, then one thing you’ll immediately notice is that there are a variety of options. From pie charts and bar graphs to tables and scatter plots, the choices seem to be endless. The key is to diversify your visuals without compromising your end message.
In order to select the best visual for your data, Janis Gulbis, a data visualization expert with EazyBi notes that there are three main questions to ask that will inform your decision.
How many variables do you want to display in each chart?
How many data points do you want to display for each variable?
Do you want to display values over groups, a period of time, or as items?
To further shape which type of visual you will use, Janis explained that various chart types serve different aims. For example, while line charts are intended for trends, bar charts illustrate comparisons. Relationships and distributions are best served by scatter plot charts while simple compositions should be displayed in pie chart form.
Based on answers to these questions, you’ll ultimately end up honing in on one of thirteen different types of charts. This obviously isn’t a foolproof method, but it goes to show how much thought should go into selecting the right visual.
4. Keep things simple
The final tip is to keep things super simple. Trim all the unnecessary fat and pick apart the fluff to expose the true meat. You’re not trying to win an award for “most outstanding visualization.” You’re trying to expose insights that allow you to move forward in a profitable manner. Simplicity is always preferred.
Don’t skimp on data visualization
Collecting and analyzing data is one thing. Actually displaying this data in an aesthetically pleasing manner that allows people to understand what’s going on is a totally different thing.
Sure, you can use Excel spreadsheets and charts, but are you really getting the most value out of your data this way? If you want to maximize the value of your data and get the highest possible return, then you shouldn’t skimp on visualizations.
Consider the tactics and techniques mentioned in this article and make strong data visualizations a bigger priority in your organization moving forward.