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3 Questions to Ask when Designing Data Visualizations

By Michelle Gardner | July 25, 2017
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Even the best embedded analytics dashboards will suffer if the data viz in them isn’t done right. After all, no analytic application is complete without some charts and graphs. But basic data visualizations alone are not enough to satisfy your end users.

Too many application teams focus on getting their product to market quickly at the expense of UI/UX design. This ultimately means user adoption and satisfaction will suffer—and customers will leave for a better product if the offerings don’t improve quickly.

Taking time up front to design meaningful, easy-to-understand data visualizations means you can empower users with the insights they need to make smarter business decisions. Ask yourself these three questions when designing your visualizations.

What do your users need?

It seems obvious, but this is by far the most commonly ignored question when designing data viz. First and foremost, consider your users and their requirements. Find the answers to questions such as:

  • Are all your application users in the same role—and therefore fit within the same persona? Or do you have different user types and personas? A top executive may need a sweeping glance at trends over time while a technical support person may need to analyze today’s tickets with a level of granularity.
  • What do each of your user personas need from the dashboards and reports?
  • Which of those needs are high priority and what can be relegated to subsequent pages or dashboards?
  • What level of access should each persona have to the data? The data an HR manager can see may be vastly different than what a sales representative should be able to view.

Take the quiz to get a breakdown of your analytics users >

 

Are you choosing the right visuals for the data?

Giving your customers access to analytics isn’t enough to ensure they get the right information out of their dashboards and reports. Choosing the right data visualizations to convey your datasets is crucial to getting users to adopt your application’s analytics.

When presenting information, the more visually stunning it is, the better, right? Not always. A flashy data visualization may look great, but it will be useless if it doesn’t deliver information in a clear, concise way. Sometimes a bar chart or pie chart really is the best way to present the data. Let the information context and users’ needs determine the best way to present the data.

Learn which data visualizations to use for different data types: 16 Data Visualizations to Thrill Your Customers >

 

Are you telling a meaningful story with the data?

You wouldn’t write a book without a plot. The same applies to data: Without a story to back it up, your embedded analytics will never get used.

The heart of every good data visualization is storytelling. When done right, data visualizations have the ability to tell a story through visuals—guiding users toward conclusions about their data and empowering them to make decisions based on those insights. The clearer you present the story, the easier it is for a user to know what action to take.

The best way to visually guide users is to make it clear what’s important and what is secondary. Make sure everything from headings to labels to graphics are clear and concise. And remember that not every piece of data needs to appear on every screen: Drill down and drill through are your friend!

Get expert advice on designing stunning dashboards: Use This, Not That: How to Do UI for BI >

 

 

About the Author

Michelle Gardner is the Director of Corporate Marketing & Communications at Logi Analytics. She has over a decade of experience writing and editing content, with a specialty in software and technology.

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