A Beginner’s Guide to Data Visualization

Modern technology has made it easier than ever to collect and analyze large amounts of data. Industries of all kinds can benefit, from health care to retail and beyond. However, understanding data isn’t always easy. Data visualization can simplify matters by representing complex, large amounts of data in more digestible graphics. This guide for businesses explains how you can harness the power of data visualization in your company.

What is data visualization?

Very basically, data visualization refers to the representation of data in various graphic formats. This could include infographics, plots, charts, and even animations. SAS explains that data visualization is not only for data scientists. For example, it can also be used by managers to identify areas needing improvement or predict sales volumes. It’s generally useful for idea generation and illustration as well as visual discovery.

There are many types of data visualization. Simple tables consist of rows and columns comparing variables, while pie charts and bar charts organize data in a comparative manner. Meanwhile, line graphs and area charts are great for demonstrating change, and heat maps can be used to demonstrate behavioral data according to location. Other options include scatter plots, histograms, and tree maps.

How data visualization benefits businesses internally?

Learning the basics of data visualization and the tools needed to carry it out requires an investment of time, energy, and money. You want to make sure it’s worth the effort. Educating yourself about the benefits will eliminate any doubts you may be having. Data visualization helps people process information faster, makes it easy to capture insights that traditional reports may miss, and allows you to clearly define action points.

Data visualization is also a critical component of business intelligence. Companies can use it to identify bottlenecks, pinpoint new opportunities, and keep up with evolving market trends. In the big picture, this allows for smarter operational decisions and more strategic processes. For example, a better understanding of market needs will allow a company to tailor its products and services accordingly.

How data visualization benefits businesses externally?

The benefits of data visualization that companies experience internally also translate to the outside world. Company stakeholders like investors are a great example. Investors are ultimately interested in the bottom line. They want to make sure that the business is profitable. However, analyzing financial data, like profit-and-loss statements, can be tedious. Oracle reveals that data visualization helps present financial data in an engaging way.

Data visualization can also prove beneficial for a business’s customers. Marketing is one great example. Marketing materials are supposed to engage customers and draw them in. Visual marketing elements are a great way to attract interest and get your target audience to click on your marketing materials. High-quality visuals can even boost your search engine optimization results.

Helpful tools for data visualization

Now that you’re aware of the benefits of data visualization, the next question is—how can you implement it? There are many useful tools that you can use to get started. Harvard Business School offers a roundup of some of the top options. For example, Microsoft Excel can be used to not only create spreadsheets but also transform them into pie charts, scatter plots, and bar charts. There are even more advanced options available, like histograms.

Google Charts is another helpful tool that can be used to create interactive data visualizations. This is great for visuals that you plan to publish live on the internet. Google Charts can pull data from multiple sources, like SQL databases or Salesforce, and use that information to automatically generate visuals. Another great option is Tableau. It’s both easy to use and comprehensive, offering dozens of visualization options.

For professionals who are focused specifically on representing business intelligence, Zoho Analytics is worth a look. It’s often used to represent data related to revenue, profit, pipelines, sales, and marketing. Another popular tool is Datawrapper, which is—similar to Google Charts—intended for creating graphics that are published on the internet. Finally, there’s Infogram, which is ideal for infographics in particular.

When sharing data visualization, a banner template is another useful tool. You can use a template to brand your data visualization, clearly marking it with your company’s logo. You can use a free online banner creator and customize it for your needs. When selecting a template, consider details like the type of data you’re working with and where you plan to present it. After choosing a template, personalize it as needed and download it to share.

Best practices for data visualization

Acquiring and learning the tools associated with data visualization is only half the battle. You also want to ensure that you’re implementing data visualization appropriately. There are some simple best practices to keep in mind as you go forward. First, make sure that your designs are accessible. You want to choose color palettes that work for individuals with color blindness, for instance. A tool like Viz Palette or ColorBrewer can help.

In general, you want to make sure you’re picking the right type of visualization tool for the given data. For example, a dot map may be ideal if you’re dealing with geographical-related data. Various factors determine the ideal visual, including the type of data you’re dealing with, the number of variables at play, and what type of pattern you want to emphasize. For instance, do you want to show a hierarchical relationship or compare values?

Finally, there’s the quality of the visuals themselves to consider. You want to ensure clarity and comprehensiveness. Choose a clear font and make sure it’s large enough to read. Visuals should be crisp and clear, without any blurriness. If you’re creating moving or animated visuals, make sure there is no jumpiness or fuzziness. Finally, ensure that your visual is appealing and engaging.

Data visualization can benefit your business in all kinds of areas, from improving your marketing tactics to generating more comprehensible business insights. If you’re new to the field, rest assured that there are plenty of handy tools and hacks to simplify matters. The above guide provides a roundup of resources that can help you get started. Follow these tips and harness the power of data visualization to support your success.

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