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Effective Data Visualization – My 3 Key Lessons

I must say that I enjoy articles that teach me something new from people who have a great depth of knowledge about a topic.  I read an article by Avinash Kaushik,  Create High-Impact Data Visualizations: Nine Effective Strategies, which covers nine strategies while reviewing sixteen visualizations. It reminded me of three key learnings I have had over my career.

Don’t Be Too Cute

Trying to use all your software’s features can lead to complex and confusing graphics. I know I find a new hammer the tendency is to look at everything a nail, even if it is a screw. Don’t lose yourself in your tool or a new theory you discover. Keep to good design principles and keep it simple.

Don’t Provide More Data Then You Need

Don’t include more data in your visualization than you need to tell your story. There is often a tendency to provide a visualization with multi-drill downs, filters, and tables. This is fine if you are providing a way to do ad-hoc analysis, but if you have a visual telling a single story, make sure the data included helps move your story along without letting your view get lost.

Have More Data to show What-Ifs

A great way to look at visualization is to use filters to provide what-if views. Having filters for different scenarios, various options and different time slices provide the user a way to review and discover various perspectives on your data. Visualizations can provide a greater impact on your story if the user takes an action to select a view rather than having two lines on a static graph. More of the reader’s senses are engaged which provides greater learning and comprehension.  You get past the visual senses and provide a great memory aid.  Just make sure the user does not have to work too hard to get there and that they do not get lost in the data.  Keep it simple.

There was a great visualization referenced in the article, the Global Gender Gap Report, which was a great example of a very detailed interactive visualization that tells the story.  Also was one of the coolest visualizations I have seen.

Share What You Have Found

These are just a few points I thought about after reading Avinash’s article. I highly recommend reading it and reviewing the visualization examples he has put together.  He certainly meets his stated goal of the article is to make you a more effective influencer with your data visualizations.

Are there any articles you have read recently that you thought were keepers?


Other Resource:

Story Telling with Data Visualizations and Infographics : Data visualizations can become the vehicle that leads a reader through your narrative.  Having an infographic or series of visuals allows one to tell a story and provide greater understanding than simply having text alone.


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