How to create impactful, effective data visualizations

Nearly every business today uses spreadsheets for one function or another. Whether its for employee tracking purposes, to organize financial information or what have you, spreadsheets are not going anywhere anytime soon.

However, sometimes it is difficult to utilize a spreadsheet to illustrate a business case or present informational trends. In these cases, it is typically more impactful to leverage a data visualization - not only for improved effectiveness, but also to foster better understanding of the content being shown.

In these respects, not all data visualizations are created equally. Some visuals are more useful than others for presenting specific types of information. To help make better enterprises cases and improve the decision-making process, data visualizations should be established carefully, leveraging the following best practices:

Break down complex content
Data visualization users will quickly realize that what makes sense to them may not come across to their audience. Because the creator is likely more familiar with the content, they must keep in mind that this may be the first time others are seeing it. For this reason, it is important to break down complex data sets to ensure the materials make sense. Mind Tools suggested either summarizing the information or splitting it up into a few smaller visualizations.

Remove extra clutter
Although many individuals may want to get fancy with their visualizations by adding extra - and often unnecessary - bells and whistles, these items often just get in the way. Instead, it is best to keep it simple. Even removing items like tick marks, grid lines or borders can help in this regard, AdLibbing suggested. Users should perform the "squint test" to see if their visualization is too cluttered.

"Look at your chart and squint," AdLibbing stated. "If you can see the shape of the data, then you're doing it right. You shouldn't be distracted by grids, plot lines, etc."

Consider the audience
Mind Tools also suggesting understanding the viewpoints of the audience to prevent any misinterpretation of the visualization. Additionally, if speaking to a culturally diverse group, presenters should keep in mind that certain colors or jargon could be offensive or confusing. This is especially important when presenting to partnering organizations or clients from other regions of the globe.

Include an effective title
In many cases, the title of the presentation is just as important as the information being conveyed. If the title doesn't give the audience the full story, they may not completely understand the point the presenter is trying to illuminate. AdLibbing suggested adding annotations or captions to better communicate the message.


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