3 No-Nonsense Tips for Creating Kick-Butt Data Visualizations

Data Visualization photo from Shutterstock

Data Visualization photo from Shutterstock

Headline: No Nonsense Tips for Creating Kick-Butt Data Visualizations

Picture this scenario: Your boss hands you a 100-page report and asks you to present a summary of the key findings to the company’s exec team within a few weeks.

Your first thought? To crawl into the fetal position under your desk. But one tool has made this easier to deliver: data visualizations.

Data visualizations use infographics to make complex information more accessible. They’re a simple way to take large data sets and summarize them into key trends, allowing executives to make better decisions that lead to growth and more customer satisfaction.

Data visualizations are becoming the norm in the business world, but not everyone has mastered them. From confusing graphics to numbers that don’t make any mathematical sense, there are plenty of ways they can go wrong. We talked to Sonia Castaneda, an instructor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, Center for Continuing Education, to find out three ways to do data visualizations right.

Choose the Right Tools

One of the most common mistakes people make with data visualizations is choosing the wrong tool or the wrong graphic.

The way you present information is key to how your audience understands it. Want to show six-month trends? Choose a line or bar graph, and not a pie chart or table. With several new tools, transforming data is now a lot easier.

“The top three are probably SpotfireQlikViewTableau,” Castaneda says. “Microsoft is also launching Power BI. These things are replacing Excel charts and Powerpoint, which have been the standard. ”

Know Your Audience

When it comes to data, less is more.

“It’s meant to capture specific trends, but people are trying to use it as a reporting platform to give out massive data,” Castaneda says.

People often make this mistake when they present information to senior management. Executives at this level want to see topline numbers. Too many figures—and too many graphics—and you’ll lose your audience. Your data visualizations should answer three main questions: What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong and how can we improve?

“You need to understand who your audience is and who’s asking for a meaningful report,” Castaneda says.

Tell a Story

Sure, data scientists aren’t storytellers. But your data should have an interesting narrative to avoid boring your audience. With data visualizations, every element drives the story forward—from the colors and graphics you pick to the headlines on the page. Banking With a defined beginning, middle and end, a story gives your data structure and makes it more compelling. It also keeps your boss’ eyes from glazing over during your presentation, which is a win-win for everyone involved.

Want to learn more about data visualizations? Sign up for Introduction to Tableau Software at Borough of Manhattan Community College Center for Continuing Education or sign up for one of its new courses on CourseHorse.