Data visualization: How to turn data into simple and inviting information

6 minutes
Written by: Natalia De la Peña Frade
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‘I’m so excited; I’m going to a meeting to look at 800 graphs for 3 hours,’ said no one, ever. Or ‘I can’t wait to read this article with 3 pages of tables of statistics.’ Nope.

If communicating data and information is part of your job or routine, you need data visualization skills. Genially has plenty of possibilities that you’ll find helpful with this. It even integrates with your data tools like Infogram and Datawrapper!

In this post, discover how to turn the tables and transform the dullest information into a great experience for your audience.

What is data visualization?

It’s the technique that allows us to graphically represent data so that the information is easier to digest and understand. To do this, all kinds of visual resources are used, such as graphs, infographics, maps, diagrams, and timelines, among others. This way, the information is communicated visually and can be assimilated in a more natural way.

We can define data visualization as a technique, but also as a skill, or even an art. It blends the aesthetic with the functional, the visually appealing with the mathematically exact.

Why is data visualization important?

The aim of data visualization is to transform data into information that’s useful and easy to consume. For companies, it’s invaluable for extracting conclusions that allow you to make decisions, but it goes much further than that. You can use data in any situation to explain whatever you want, providing context and details which will help you to communicate the information. It’s useful for graphic artists, data analysts, project managers, journalists, and other professionals in areas related to communication in any of its forms.

Nowadays, data visualization skills are essential. I’m sure you’ve heard that thing about how more data has been generated in the past 2 years than in the entire history of humanity, right? The internet and new technologies mean we can now extract tons of data from any operation, no matter how big or small. Data visualization is what helps it make sense and turns it into useful information.

What is good data visualization?

In order to fulfill its function, data visualization should be:

  • Simple: its main function is to make the information easy to understand and reduce the effort required to interpret the data.
  • Efficient in communicating the data. It should allow the audience to: 
    • obtain the general context of the information,
    • study the more interesting aspects in depth, 
    • filter the irrelevant information, 
    • relate and compare the information and, in summary, 
    • extract interesting conclusions.
  • Attractive: to be able to communicate information effectively these days, we need to be resourceful. The constant barrage of information means that it’s often difficult to reach our audience, who only pay attention to the most appealing visual stimulants. Visual metaphors are a useful resource.
  • Coherent: there should be a consistency in the elements used in data visualization. For example, we should always use the same abbreviations, the same size graphics, and the same colors throughout. If it’s coherent it’ll be much easier to understand.

Interactive data visualization: even better!

The internet has allowed static data visualization to evolve. Previously, representations were simple illustrations which were not unattractive but were flat and lifeless. Interactivity totally transforms the visualization experience. Interactive content facilitates understanding and makes visual communication more efficient in many different ways.

First, interactivity allows you to prioritize the most relevant or impactful information by displaying it first and adding more details in layers which appear when people interact with the content.

This makes it possible to share much more information in less space and maintain the visual design at the same time. This is the first step to getting the audience to interact with the information: make it easy on the eye.

Want to see an example? Check out this graph with info on Spanish cinema:

If you add interactivity and adjust the design, you can end up with something like this:

The audience can click on the circles to discover the information that interests them most and filter by genres in one simple click.

As well as making the design more visual and more effective at attracting the attention of your audience, interactivity gives this audience the opportunity to participate actively in the experience of consuming the information. In the act of participating, the attention they pay to the content will be increased exponentially.

There’s something magical about interactivity: it allows people to decide how and when they want to receive the information, if at all. This way, it’s not received as part of the constant barrage we talked about; the audience seeks it out voluntarily and at their own pace. Giving them this choice is the most powerful way of having a real impact on your audience.

How to tell a story with data visualization

Storytelling and data visualization? Now we’re talking! To create good data visualization experiences, we need sufficient and reliable data, but also creative and communication skills. In essence, there are great stories behind the data that visualization allows us to reveal.

Follow these steps to create awesome data visualization stories:

  1. Define the objective of the data visualization: what information do you want to communicate?
  2. Curate the information: what sources and data are you going to use? It’s important to use all the information necessary to provide the most neutral and objective picture possible.
  3. Know your audience: this is fundamental to be able to adapt the information to their level of comprehension and their aesthetic tastes.
  4. Choose the visual elements you’re going to use, taking into account the type of data you have available. As well as all the types of graphs and charts that exist, there are countless elements that can help strengthen your visual communication. For example, an attractive image or illustration related to the topic will catch everyone’s eye and reinforce the significance of the information.  
  5. Define the data visualization format you’re going to use. Timelines, infographics, and interactive maps are super visual formats for expressing your data and creating your narrative.

Data visualization with Genially

Genially’s features make it very practical for data visualization and you’ll find it easy to turn your data into visually-appealing content.

  • You can import content from lots of platforms and in lots of different formats. You can quickly create graphs by importing data from your Google Sheets.
  • Genially integrates with tools such as Infogram and Datawrapper, which allows you to embed graphics from these tools in your geniallys using HTML code. In fact, you can embed the HTML code of any tool in Genially, even Google Data Studio. Try it! The graphs from Data Studio maintain their filters and structure. If you use data visualization to create regular reports, you’ll save tons of time: put together the dashboard in Data Studio, embed it in your genially, and you’ll have all the work done for your future reporting presentations.
  • Another advantage is that you can share your genially using a link or insert it in a website, such as a digital newspaper or blog for example.
  • Forget about having to update the information in a hundred different places: when you update your creation, it’s updated everywhere. Whoever accesses your genially, whether using the link or viewing it wherever you’ve embedded or inserted it, will always see the latest version. It’s not magic, it’s Genially!
  • With Genially it’s really easy to add interactivity and animation to the elements you use in your data visualization to make it more creative.

Big Data and Data Science are here to stay. Data keeps growing exponentially and data visualization will become more and more important for getting our audience’s attention. Let’s make the most of it!

Natalia De la Peña Frade
Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read
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