The old expression goes: “A picture tells a thousand words”. Never has this been truer than today, as with the increasing loads of data available to us we collect more and more from an ever increasing range of sources. It’s important to be able to present and read this information in a clear and easy manner. Whether you’re keeping it in-house or presenting to investors or partners, do yourself and all that data you’ve worked so hard to collect a favour, and use great data visualisation.
I can’t overstate the importance of easy-to-understand visualisation systems, but if your reader or viewer can’t understand what’s in front of them, you’ve lost them, and possibly a new business partner, client or even the opportunity to streamline or optimise your own operations! Here’s our 8-step guide to making Design Visualisation work for you!
Keep It Simple
The number one rule of visualisation has to be Keep It Simple. Data and analytics offer many opportunities to their users, but one of those is also the opportunity to get lost and confused. Never overload your visualisation with too much information or gimmicks! A simple and measured approach produces clearer results for the user. Around 70% of the body's sense receptors relate to sight, so take advantage of this by offering clear visuals.
How we See
How the brain physically and chemically works is essential to how we process our environment and information around us. Iconic memory is the name given to the mind’s short-term buffer and processor and ensures we have a coherent picture of the world around us. This memory form is also used in the perception of visual attributes including shapes, relative sizes and basic colours.
Pre-attentive attributes & Perceptions
To maximise the power and efficiency of visualisation, we react best to intuitive, and well-known shapes, colours, movement and spacial positioning we’re familiar with. People are always more comfortable with what they’re familiar with, which is why - for instance - we all intuitively know that the “floppy disk” icon means “save”, despite floppy disks being obsolete. It’s about familiarity and intuition, and as technology and data visualisation grow and become more integrated into our daily lives it becomes ever-more so essential to work with what people are familiar with.
Never ignore the importance of using the right Business Intelligence tools, specifically, while easily collecting your data from a variety of sources, pay attention to how your BI solution presents your data.
Using a modern Business Intelligence solution like Viur can make an enormous difference to the clarity and readability of your data.
Your organisation’s data will be seen not only by your technical team or person directly linked with the data, but by executives, internal teams and managers, partners, investors and more. Not everyone will have the ingrained knowledge needed, so having your data presented in a clear and easily digestible manner helps the lives and jobs of everyone involved.
Setting Up Your Dashboard
Your choice in Business Intelligence tools are not just about the visual output of the data collected, but should also come down to how you set up your dashboard options. A few essential Dos and Don’ts when you’re at that stage include:
- DO use the full axis and avoid distortion.
- DO use consistent intervals to make distinctions clear.
- DO label correctly and clearly. Always use clear language and avoid acronyms.
- DO simplify less essential information.
- DO try the “squint test” when viewing your information. If you can’t view things clearly, can you still get an impression from the information displayed.
- DO ask for a second opinion - a fresh pair of eyes can quickly tells us what works and what doesn’t.
- DON’T use 3D effects.
- DON’T use more than six colours, and be very careful with the colour combinations you do select. Keep in mind visual impairment and even people with colour deficiency. Around 8% of men suffer from this, and 4.5% of the world’s population.
- DON’T change visual styles midway.
- DON’T make the user do too much work when viewing the output.
- DON’T overload the user with too much information
Great data visualisation will tell a visual story. Without being conscious of it, our eyes and brains are capable of processing complex data quickly, but images and patterns are more easily absorbed and understood.
In an ideal scenario, your data’s story should be presented in a purely visual form, without the need for text, except when absolutely necessary to clarify something. A proliferation of words or tags can confuse users and become a distraction rather than a clarification.
Psychology of Colour
Colour is essential in creating visuals that engage viewers. The world of corporate branding tends to emphasise palettes of blacks, whites, blues and dark greens, but the clever use of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples can lead to effective visuals. There are many strategies for choosing color themes, so it’s good to learn at least a little about colour psychology, the emotional reactions they bring about, and the cultural roles of colours in different parts of the globe: for instance in Western society, the colour red is largely associated with danger or aggression, while in China it is considered the colour of good fortune.
Don't treat all data with the same level of importance. As with any other area of life and business, there’s a hierarchy, which should determine the visualisation's objectives through design, colours, and organisation. Even within the use of colour, remember that hues and intensities of the colours you choose play a vital role in achieving hierarchy and storytelling.
Remember, just because you have access to dozens - if not more - strands of data feeding your BI, that doesn’t mean that everything chosen to share makes sense to the viewer, unless it’s presented clearly. Ensure that your BI platform can be easily customised to help you produce and share clear, easy-to-read and understandable visualised data.