Publishers and advertisers alike operate in a data-rich world. However, this new reality is only an advantage if you take the time to analyze the mountains of data at your fingertips. For many numbers enthusiasts, this can be a rewarding process—but once you’ve gathered your data and carefully crafted it into a dashboard or report, the last thing you want is to hear radio silence from the colleagues you’ve shared it with.
Enter the practice known as data visualization. Integral to successful report design, data visualization helps people process, retain, and recount information effectively by targeting the brain’s visual processing centers. Mastering this technique will help you showcase data in a way that’s digestible, engaging, and memorable.
The more established your company’s culture of measurement and evaluation is, the more data-driven decisions you’ll be able to make to drive your business forward. Here are a few tips to help you implement data visualization in your reporting, and create content your colleagues will love to read.
Know your audience
Apply this foundational marketing principle to your data visualization approach for maximum impact. Consider who in your organization will use the data you’re gathering. If your audience is C-suite executives, you’ll want to display a higher level of data that speaks to your company’s progress toward its strategic priorities. If your audience is a marketing team, you’ll want to dig into the details of everything from customer behavior to campaign attribution.
Understand the data
Before you ever share a report beyond your own desktop, you need to understand the context and the purpose of the data it contains. Context is crucial because identical data can tell different stories. If your email open rates suddenly take a dive, it could be cause for concern. However, you must consider the context in which your email was competing for attention when it was sent.
It’s also essential to determine the reason why you’re sharing particular data because this will help you establish the format for your data visualization. If you need to display a sales dashboard, you’ll want to take a different approach than if you need to show an infographic or a summary combined with an analysis.
Tell a story
Storytelling is another key component of successful marketing that you can borrow for your data visualization practice. A good story will keep your readers hooked and increase the impact of your reporting efforts.
The trick here is to analyze the relationship between data points to uncover the story that the numbers tell. Once you’ve organized your data, you can examine it for patterns such as trends and correlations or look for outliers. This is where things often get interesting, and it’s how you can begin to tease out a narrative. Just be mindful to remain truthful, and don’t exaggerate the data’s meaning.
Focus on user experience
UX matters because data visualization is intended to make the information in dashboards and reports easier to absorb and remember. When considering UX in your design, start with your company’s brand guidelines. Your data visualization should stay within these parameters.
There are a few general rules you should follow for data visualization design. Colors should remain consistent when displaying a single type of data, but should contrast when necessary to enable different types of data to be easily distinguished. Data should be ordered in a logical, consistent manner. Text should be kept to a minimum, and where text is used, fonts should be clean and simple.
Now, it’s time to get technical. You should use different types of charts depending on the data you’re showcasing. Some of the most common methods include using pie charts to display proportions, line charts to depict trends, bar charts to break down and compare values, and scatter charts to illustrate relationships. Deciding on the right chart for the job is key to strong data visualization.
Stay up to date with new tools and technologies
When creating a dashboard, it’s best to use a tool that will allow you to populate the dashboard with data that can be updated automatically because dashboards tend to display frequently changing metrics in real-time. You can create multiple dashboards for various audiences based on their interests and objectives.
Some data visualizations such as traditional quarterly reports can be more static because they tend to feature a wider range of historical data at a higher level. These data visualizations are often especially useful for senior executives.