Data visualisation is the graphical display of abstract information for two purposes: sense-making (also called data analysis) and communication.
Most modern organisations use numerical data to communicate quantitative information. These numbers are fundamental to understanding of organisational performance. This information can be presented in many different ways, for example graphs, maps, and at a more advanced level – dashboards.
Despite the popular wisdom, data and numbers cannot always speak for themselves. Sometimes, too much time can be spent on struggling to understand the data presented in lengthy reports and numerical tables. This time could be better spent on making evidence-based decisions.
Data visualisation can help with the analysis of that information and present it in a way that allows viewers to discover patterns that might otherwise be hard to uncover. Large amounts of data are hard to wade through, but data visualisation can make that data easily digestible.
Who is this resource for?
This guide will be of benefit to anyone interested in creating well designed, informative and easy to understand charts. Whether you are a student, researcher, lecturer or work in management it is likely that you will often need to include statistical information or analysis in your papers, reports and presentations.
Even if you are already well experienced and have progressed to building interactive web-based dashboards, you may still find it beneficial to refresh your understanding of current practice relating to good visualisation design. After all even the most advanced dashboards will contain a collection of individual graphs, maps or other types of visual displays such as traffic lights and speed dials, for example.
During the past two decades, we have seen an amazing progress in technologies enabling us to collect and process huge amounts of data. This vast data availability has driven the interest in data analysis and visualisation. This in turn has lead to visualisation methods being constantly updated and developed as new evidence about the effectiveness of visualisation methods emerge.
This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive guide to the subject in hand. There are too many good sources of information eg specialist books, blogs and publications dealing with the topic of data visualisation for us to recreate it all. Even amongst the experts the opinions vary on what should be the gold standard and best practice in this area. Instead, our guide intends to be a distillation of these opinions and advice – many of which have been tried and tested by us in practice – and to bring many useful resources together into one place.
The advice contained in this resource is applicable to data visualisation used in the business context, rather than the data art so commonly seen in the media and conference presentations. In the context of this resource, data art is visualisation of data that seeks primarily to entertain or produce an aesthetic experience.
Business intelligence guide
Organisations require access to accurate, timely and meaningful information about their core businesses and the environment in which they operate, if they are to adapt and thrive during times of great uncertainty.
Our guide on business intelligence helps to explore this essential element of decision-making based on accurate data about the state of your organisation and the environment in which it operates.