Bringing Your Data to Life - Use Visualization to Dive Beneath All Those 1s and 0s

Bringing Your Data to Life - Use Visualization to Dive Beneath All Those 1s and 0s

One of the most important things to understand about data visualization is that it IS something that it's possible to "get wrong." Yes, data on its own is boring and complicated - it's little more than a series of 1s and 0s that, in a vacuum, don't amount to much of anything at all.

But just as your business might use advanced analytical tools to draw out the insight hidden inside all those 1s and 0s, you need to essentially do the exact same thing for your audience when it comes to data visualization. Only by understanding the very thin needle that you're trying to thread will you actually stand a chance to bring your data to life. If you truly want to make sure that your data visualization is equal parts useful, clear and compelling, there are a number of things you're going to want to pay attention to.

It All Begins With Your Audience

Maybe the most important thing to understand about data visualization is that the data is only a means to an end - it is not an end in and of itself. In other words, even though you're talking about something that is far different than a blog post or a white paper, you still need to begin creating data-rich collateral in the exact same place:
By gaining the best possible understanding of your audience.
Your brand is probably creating so much data by this point that it can be used to tell any story you want to. That's tremendously freeing - but it also leaves a lot of room for error. You still need to begin by asking yourself who your audience actually is, and what they care about. What questions do they have that you're providing the answers to through data visualization?
Likewise, you need to ask yourself how to best visualize that data to connect with the audience in question. Some audiences may prefer that you sit down with an Infographic maker like Visme (which I founded) to come up with something fast, breezy and easy to understand. Others may be willing to embrace what you can create with something a bit more inherently complicated, like a scatter plot maker.
You need to achieve this deeper understanding of your target audience before you even start thinking about data visualization, or you're not going to be able to accomplish nearly as much as you'd hoped.

Data Visualization is a Gateway to Data Storytelling

Equally important is your ability to allow data to rise up and become something more than it is on the surface. In other words, data visualization is really just the first step in a two step process. The second step - and arguably the more important one - comes down to the principles of data storytelling.
Experts agree that data storytelling is all about bringing together two key concepts: the hard data that you're working with, and the best practices of human communication. To put it another way, you need to be able to not only create a compelling story using the data you have access to, but that story also needs to be anchored to the data in an equally compelling way.
This is why, even though the data you're working with was probably obtained in-house, you should still begin creating collateral by heading to a site like Respona to find important topics that your audience members care about like you would with any other piece of content. Figure out what question someone needs answered, what topic they need explained, or what larger subject they want to find out more about.
Then, dive into your data and find a way to not only use those 1s and 0s to tell that story, but to do so in a A) highly visual way that is B) easy to understand and engage with for even the most casual people out there.
If you take a bunch of boring statistics and visualize them, guess what - all you're left with is a bunch of boring statistics that are now a bit prettier. But if you use those same statistics to tell a story that dives straight to the heart of what people care about, then you're talking about the type of collateral that people won't be able to look away from.

Posted by Payman Taei

Payman Taei
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.

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