A data visualisation should impart useful information by telling a story, by looking beautiful and more importantly it should serve a purpose. A great visualisation also requires no further explanation – you should understand it purely by looking at it. Furthermore, data visualisation has become more accessible than ever before, meaning it is easier to build a great reporting solution, to become more informed or convey the right message in the right way.
Is visualisation important?
When time and resources available to a data solution are limited, it is tempting to deploy a ‘bare bones’ reporting solution to get by. But data visualisation doesn’t have to be a long and tiresome process. Businesses now have access to fantastic on premise and cloud-based reporting solutions, including interactive dashboards that allow the user to drill down for specific insights, and some businesses are building their own visualisation libraries with reusable templates.
A high-quality visualisation solution can yield huge benefits by:
- Improving internal and external communication.
- Saving time by asking the right questions of data beforehand and performing the appropriate analyses.
- Enabling better decision making.
- Increasing customer or social engagement with exciting demos and proofs of concept.
- Making data and analytics more accessible to your company as a whole.
The neuroscience of visualisation
Understanding how people process visual information and how people react when new insights are presented to them is a crucial component of your reporting solution. Understanding that people are equal parts objective and subjective, can have biases, and thus can interpret the same chart in more than one way, can help managers to consistently make the correct decisions when presented with new insights.
People tend to focus on data that they can easily understand and reject data that they can’t easily understand. Similarly, when there is too much information, people will tend to ignore new insights and stick with preexisting assumptions. Developing a narrative around data can provide context to a report or analysis and make it meaningful to the person reading it.
- Can I actually use the information in this visual?
- Is it an accurate portrayal of the data?
- Can I make an effective decision? And is it the right decision?
Data visualisation is as much an art as a science, and if done well it can work for your business as a powerful communicative tool.