We have more data than ever available from many internal and external sources which can be overwhelming and difficult to digest.
Charts and graphs are, in most cases, the best way to display this information turning complex pages of words and numbers into striking visual stories.
Wisely-chosen charts which follow good design principles can help with understanding your data and empower management teams to base their decisions on evidence rather than common wisdom. The science of data visualisation is relatively new and the skills required have to be learned and practised. Can you spot what’s wrong with the slide in this picture?
In my team at Jisc infoNet, we’re really pleased that we’ve been able to develop advice and guidance in this area which will help learners, managers and practitioners develop their skills.
Our top ten tips for data visualisation
- Keep it simple – avoid ‘chartjunk’ at all costs
- Focus on purpose – don’t try to do everything with one visualisation
- Choose the right chart - understand the strengths and limits of each chart form
- Utilise micro and macro perspectives - think about your audience, senior management or practitioners
- Avoid information overload - multiple charts are better than cramming information into one
- Avoid 3D charts - the perspective can distort the data in a sense that what is displayed ‘in front’ is perceived as more important than what is shown in the background
- Amplify the message - use the title to amplify the main finding in a compelling headline
- Don't confuse it with data art – the main job of data visualisation is to inform and help the understanding of an individual; the primary purpose of data art is to deliver an aesthetically pleasing experience and to entertain
- Proofread - often we focus so much on the numbers that we forget about words, their spelling, grammar and clarity of the message
- Use colour sparingly - colours in analytics should add meaning and extra context to the visualisation, and not used merely to make the charts look pretty.
We've put together a data visualisation infoKit that has been built with practitioners and learners from across research and education to ensure it meets their needs. It has even attracted the attention of Stephen Few, one of the world's leading experts in data visualisation for data sense, who provided his advice and feedback. We have received over 20 reviews from the practitioners in this field and 100% of them would recommend this infoKit to a colleague.
We treat our infoKits as living resources, if you have any ideas on how the data visualisation infoKit can be improved then just drop us a line.