7 Rules of Effective Data Visualization

In today’s data-driven world where organizations are continuously striving to adapt to new innovations and need real time data to make quick decisions, data analysis is the need of the hour. For decision makers in an organization, dashboards and reports play a vital role in assisting them to make quick data-driven decisions. However, there are some rules which must be adhered to, to make the most out of these dashboards.  

1. Define Simply 


The first task in data visualization is to identify the matter or a problem that needs to be solved through the information on the dashboard.  

Think about the challenges the clients are facing and visualize data in a way that would address them. For instance, for an Ecommerce business, keeping retention rates up could be a problem for which they would be interested in viewing a retention metrics focused dashboard. 

It is also crucial to consider the target audience of your dashboard. A CMO would be more interested in viewing Customer Lifetime Value whereas CFO would most likely consider Accounts Payable Turnover an important metric. So, keep assessing if your dashboard is conveying the information clients are looking for. 

2. Clean Thoroughly  


Secondly, to prepare data for visualization and analysis, it must be cleaned to remove duplicate, incomplete, incorrect, and irrelevant information from it. Data cleaning involves removing or treating blank cells, converting the data type, using UPPER/LOWER case for text and removing unnecessary columns, etc.  

3. Visualize Insightfully  


Once the cleaned data is obtained, the third rule of building good dashboards asks you to show-case your data in a way that not just provides powerful insights but is easy to interpret too. For this reason, an intelligent use of information design is essential. 

All visuals used in the dashboard must be appropriate for the metric they aim to represent – like bar charts for comparisons, line charts for trends and pie charts for contribution. The findings/trends must immediately catch the attention of the viewer. Complicated visuals that are difficult to interpret, as pretty as they may seem, would not serve their purpose to the audience.  

Making comparisons – e.g., in terms on time – would help your audience recognize the trends and patterns. Tracking progress of a metric against a goal also provides substantial insight to viewers. Clients, especially those in the C-Level position are often short on time, and thus need reporting that gives them quick easy-to-interpret insights. 

4. Highlight Emphatically 


The next step is an extension of the previous one. Of all the information that is shown on the dashboard, it’s crucial that the most important insights and takeaways from the metrics are highlighted.  

For instance, if your data suggests every third week of the month the company has higher sales, the bar charts being used to visualize it should explicitly label the axis to account for the week number and highlight the increase and decrease in the sales figures. This helps the viewers easily identify the insights that have an impact on the business. 

5. Design Beautifully 


An ugly and readable chart conveys information, but a visually appealing and understandable chart grabs your audience’s attention and helps you stand out.  

For effective visualization, font size & style, borders and color scheme must be chosen wisely. Use the same kind of colors for the same kind of data and use colors that are intuitive [Red for Loss and Green for Profit]. 

Fancy graphics, logos and images should be avoided if they are of no use. 

6. Narrate Effectively 


Communicating well in terms of data is highly significant when it comes to creating meaning. A good dashboard not just shows data but also breathes out a story. Dashboards that can be navigated through easily, and that tell the whole story about the business’ performance stand out for the clients.  

One example of such a story could be the pirate metric model for E-commerce firms. It is a funnel that includes 5 steps, each telling an important part of the story. 

7. Accept Openly 


Lastly, when presenting the dashboard to clients, openly accept feedback and ensure all their requirements are met. It would be helpful to note down all actionable items from the discussion and cross check from the list to ensure all necessary key performance indicators they want to see have been incorporated in the dashboard appropriately, while keeping all the above rules in mind. 

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