How You Can Make Data Visualization Work for You
In Montclair State University’s Master of Science in Business Analytics program, you will learn how data can be used to solve problems, improve customer retention, and help businesses stay a step ahead of their competitors. Of course, data has to be collected, interpreted, and shared for it to be a helpful tool. An essential part of this process is learning how data visualization can help your findings reach your colleagues or client.
If you’ve got the data down but don’t know how to present it, don’t worry.
We’ll run through the basics first. Then we’ll get into some tips.
What is Data Visualization?
Simply put, data visualization is the way you present the information that you’ve gathered from your data. Typically, this means using a graph or chart to make your information easy for other people to understand. Good data visualization is a combination of determining the most important data and the best way to format it for your audience.
Visuals are important because, as IBM notes, the “visual representation of data makes it easier to identify and share real-time trends, outliers, and new insights about the information represented in the data.” Graphs and charts can be quickly understood, making them ideal for including large amounts of data in presentations and meetings. Processing data into a concise visual makes it accessible for anyone who may be unfamiliar with the area being analyzed.
Now, let’s talk about some data visualization tips.
Selecting the Right Visuals for Your Findings
The most important part of data visualization is, of course, the visuals.
How do you know which configuration is right for your data and audience? Toptal breaks down the most common formats for data visualization and what kinds of data they suit best.
Line graphs are best for showcasing changes over a period of time. Pie charts aren’t ideal for showing time, but they are great for displaying percentages of a whole. Scatter plots incorporate two sets of data that are related. Bar charts categorize information that falls into different categories so that they can be seen side by side. If your data is geographic, you can use a color-coded map.
The best way to decide what works for your current data set is to research examples of data-driven images then try out a few configurations. As you become more experienced, it will become easier to look at data and know the best way to display it.
Data Visualization Tools
Once you know what type of visualization you want to create, you need to find the right tool to generate it. Forbes described the features of the most popular data visualization tools, noting that they range from simply creating visuals to a full analytics package.
One of the most popular and easiest visualization tools is Google Charts. If you’re just starting out, this is the perfect place to get your footing. This program is free, and it allows you to track data in addition to creating visuals.
Tableau is another fan favorite for generating graphics. There are two versions, a paid and free version. Both offer the flexibility and efficiency of integrated graphics at every level, making it easier for both you and your audience to process data.
Looker is a newer software, but it is becoming increasingly popular. They offer many visualization templates, making it easier than ever to experiment with your presentation format.
PowerBI is Microsoft’s analytics platform. It is recommended for beginners and is great for teams who want to collaborate. This program includes graphic templates, and additional templates can be purchased or designed. Microsoft also offers some visualization options integrated in Excel, making it even more convenient to transfer data from a spreadsheet into a graphic.
These are just some of the data visualization tools that are currently popular. Deciding what works for you and your data will take some practice. These tools are sure to evolve alongside the needs of businesses as technology continues to advance.
Analyze Your Audience’s Response
The final step of turning your data in charts or graphics is to present it. After you’ve shared your findings, ask your audience if they understand your data. Be sure to consider their feedback and adapt your approach. You may need to change formats, adjust colors, or re-size your visualization to better fit the scale of your data. As you become more experienced, data visualization will come to you as easily as collecting the data itself.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in data analytics, Montclair State University’s Master of Science in Business Analytics could be right for you. Take their Career Finder Survey to learn more about what program matches your business goals.
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