What is data visualization?

Data visualization is the art of displaying your data and information in the form of graphs, charts, or maps. The function of data visualization is to help people easily understand their data in one glance — to highlight observations that don’t stand out as noticeably when viewing a vertical list of numbers and values.

Your visualization efforts should clearly communicate the insights you’ve gotten from your data, display trends and patterns, and make your data accessible to everyone at your company. It shouldn’t take more than five seconds to get answers from your visualization. The best are those that can clearly communicate an idea, simplify complex data, and display insights at a glance. 

Here are two examples of the same dataset. One is displayed as a line chart, and one as a table. The line chart communicates the trend in production adoption more clearly than a table. The chart title provides context to help the audience know what they are looking at. The chart also shows that adoption is not only growing, but growing at a faster rate over time. Though the table presents the same information, this acceleration can be conveyed much more effectively through a visual.

Line chart vs Table
Same data, different visualizations

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Types of data visualization

There are two basic types of data visualization: static and interactive.

  • Static visualizations are something like an infographic, a single keyhole view of a particular data story.
  • Interactive visualizations allow you to customize your story by moving a slider or clicking a button to enable various views of the dataset.

See Interactive Data Visualization In Action:

Data visualization methods

Here are some examples of interactive visualizations that you can integrate into dashboards for impressive data storytelling:

  • Tree Ring Diagrams – Ideal for illustrating and mapping out hierarchies between nodes and how data interacts in a network.
  • Sankey Diagrams – Excellent for mapping the flow of objects or data. These are most commonly used to measure energy flow and consumption, web traffic, or data flow between network nodes.
  • Heat Maps – Ideal to display geographical location. The warm-to-cool color scheme is commonly utilized, with the warm colors representing higher-value data points and the cool colors representing lower-value data points
  • Collapsible Trees – These tools allow viewers to map out possible outcomes by showing decisions as branching paths from an initial point.

Go deeper with these 13 powerful examples to visualize your data.

Picture your data in more places

If your company’s employees are overwhelmed by an influx of data flowing in from different departments, each with their own metrics, reports, and templates, they’re not alone. 

Data visualization gives you the ability to bring your data together in one place, so you can make informed decisions and move your business in the right direction. Using data visualizations helps organizations see with sharper vision, simplifying complex data into a big picture.

Also, analyzing your data in graphical format is significantly faster than processing multiple spreadsheets, which can majorly cut down your time-to-insights and help your company be more agile. 

To easily build these data visualizations, your best bet is a BI platform like Sisense. Be sure to choose a solution that has strong enough back-end technology to organize a large warehouse of data from different sources as well as the ability to process data from multiple sources.

Sisense makes it easy to create a single repository of information and gives you the tools to build visualizations. Sisense is easy to use, even for non-techies, with dozens of available charts, graphs, indicators, and maps to truly unlock the value of your data. Then you can share your visualizations and dashboards across your organization and allow all users to drill down into their specific areas of interest.

In summary

No matter what industry your organization is in, it probably produces impressively large amounts of data. From HR to inventory to sales, this data can be incredibly valuable —if interpreted correctly and turned into actionable insights. Data visualization can give you excellent ways to view and connect data points in creative ways.

When you connect your datasets and see them for the first time in visualizations, you can then start to ask more relevant questions. When every decisionmaker has data at their fingertips, your company can truly become a data-driven organization.

Get our free introduction to data visualizations: What they are, and how they work for you

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