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Data Visualization Best Practices

Organizations are increasingly using analytics to help their businesses. But how can you best display data? An article by GoodData offered five data visualization best practices.

1. Speak to a specific audience. 

Data visualizations should be used to address the needs of a specific audience. When developing a visualization, identity your target. Who will be looking at this data? What is your target population’s greatest challenges and what are the roadblocks preventing them from overcoming such challenges? It is also necessary to determine what decision(s) you want to drive. Is the decision more strategic and only needs to be answered once? Or is it operational and needs to be answered multiple times a day? Or is it tactical, requiring regular weekly or monthly review? The data visualization should align with the frequency of decision making. 

2. Choose the right visual. 

The type of data visual should align with your purpose: 

  • Tables use structure to demonstrate a lot of information. 
  • Line charts track changes/trends over time and show the relationship between two or more variables. 
  • Bar charts compare quantities of different categories. 
  • Scatterplots are used to show correlation between two variables. 
  • Pie/donut charts compare parts of a whole. 
  • Treemaps compare the proportions between categories via their area size. 
  • Heatmaps show individual values in a matrix represented by a color.

3. Provide context.             

Your audience needs to understand the context of your predictions or recommendations. The audience needs to understand how performance compares to the practical and tangible. This is what drives action. Presenting metrics in comparison to thresholds helps the audience understand what they are seeing.

4. Keep things simple and digestible. 

Data visualization should be snackable. Keeping things simple helps your audience quickly understand high-level information. They can also use your visualizations to answer questions effectively. 

5. Design for user engagement.  

Merge audience workflows, actionable insights, suggestions, predictions, and next best actions. Doing so allows your audience to remain engaged. To learn more about CMA’s new aggregate profile, contact