An Introduction to Data Visualization

An Introduction to Data Visualization
December 20, 2015 Joe Vernon

Each day, thousands of lines of data are collected from marketing campaigns. Numbers upon numbers are pouring in leaving it up to marketers to interrupt them and communicate it to their boss and team. But when data is presented without visual aids, it is difficult to easily find the takeaways. This is where data visualization comes in.

What is Data Visualization

Data visualization is a presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format. All levels of decisions makers welcome data visualization because it allows them to see analytical information easily and effectively communicates the takeaways. This is because the human brain processes graphics faster than raw numbers.

A few examples of data visualization is simply a bar chart, a line graph, a scatter plot or even a map which is one of the oldest and most widely used forms of data visualization.

Why is Data Visualization Important?

Visualizations help people spot key elements that may not have been obvious to them before. It takes data, big or small, and communicate it in a universally recognized language so the reader can spot patterns quickly and easily. This saves time and energy allowing decision makers to make smart business choices on the fly. With data visualization, decision makers can review the graphics (not 100’s of columns and rows from a spreadsheet) and:

  • Identify areas that need attention or improvement
  • Identify when successes or failures happen
  • Predict future behavior

Techniques for Data Visualization

The art and science of data visualization starts with understanding data. A few common techniques that can help create the best visuals for displaying data are:

  • Understand the data including its size and the uniqueness of data values
  • Determine what you want to visualize
  • Determine what information you want to communicate
  • Know who your audience is and how they process visual information
  • Keep it simple

Following these techniques will help, but you must also understand what graph is appropriate for the type of data you are trying to present. Here are a few basic charts and graphs and what they are best used for:

  • Line Graphs – Line graphs show the relationship between one (or multiple with stacked lines) variable to another and most often track changes over time.
  • Bar Charts – Bar charts are most commonly used for comparing quantities of different groups. Bar charts can be configured vertically or horizontally with the length or height representing the value.
  • Scatter Plots – (aka X/Y Plot) Scatter plots are a two-dimensional plot that shows the joint variation of two data items. These are useful when examining relationship or correlations between X and Y variables.
  • Bubble Plots – Bubble plots are similar to Scatter plots but include a third variable where the location of the bubble represents the value for two measures axes and the size of the bubble represents the value for a third measure.
  • Pie Charts – Pie charts are used to compare the parts of a whole. Be aware though, at times pie charts can be tough to interpret due to the human eye having a hard time estimating areas and comparing visual angels.

Understanding what data visualization is and why it is important is something all marketers should know. Communicating big data to your team through graphics will help save time, energy, and allow you to effectively communicate what information you want to communicate. What is your favorite what to visualize your data?

Having trouble visualizing the data collected from your marketing campaigns? Try Unifusion.