No reporting and analysis solution is complete without providing ways to visualize information. Charts and graphs as well as more advanced data visualization tools help users better understand their data and provide a fast, more meaningful view in context, especially when comparing data.
From a wide range of standard flat charts–including line, pie, bar, stacked bar, and so on–to more advanced, three-dimensional and dynamic Flash charts or to features like heat maps, text clouds and GIS maps, visualization features offer a way to present data and information in a tangible, impactful way.
The Benefits of Data Visualization
Humans are visual animals. Even in our common language, to “see” means to “understand.” And in today’s fast-paced business environments, scanning through rows of data can be time-consuming and impractical. Many businesspeople want easy visual tools to see accurate, real-time business-critical information. They may need to start with the big picture and further explore the details as needed. Or, they may need to spot exceptions and identify emerging trends to take immediate, appropriate action.
Cutting-edge visualization tools show high-level summaries of important data. They present information in clearly defined spaces using shape, size and color to provide context and meaning to the user, who can identify trends and get insight at a single glance.
Lastly, data visualization has great persuasive power. To show two figures on a data-table and to display these same figures side by side on a chart or graph is quite different in terms of impact.
Data Visualization Best Practices Tips
- Be selective about which types of data you want to visualize. Data visualization can be viewed as a visual form of analysis with the purpose of making critical items jump out at the user. If too much data is placed in visualization form, it may lose its impact and its usefulness. Stick with the critical items.
- Choose the most appropriate visualization tool for the type of data and/or information you want to display. For example, a pie chart is best used to show relative proportions between pieces of data; a line chart is best used to track an item overtime; a heat map is ideal to show two column values of multiple rows of data; geographic mapping is becoming essential for spatially-relevant data, etc.
- Leverage the power of the Web to place visualization tools outside of the strict confines of your reporting interface, so that your users are further encouraged to consume key information. For instance, place relevant information displayed in charts and graphs in your company’s wiki or intranet, on blogs, CRM, etc.