Everyone loves data these days – if people haven’t jumped on the data viz bandwagon they’re feeling pressure. The mistake most people make is to think it is an all or nothing exercise. Either they produce flat infographics or a complicated interface worthy of a researcher’s grit and determination. Firstly – infographics have their place, but they’re hardly useful as data visualization, you can do better. Secondly, researchers aren’t going to take your visualization or interface at face value; they’ll want to run their own analysis. There’s a middle way – one that allows you to guide the reporting via managed screens, keep the message clear and on point, and to leverage your data as a strategic component of your communications plan.
1) Step back from the idea that your data has to talk to everyone. let the far end of the data demand access the raw data for their analytics purposes and cater to the greatest common denominator of your stakeholders.
2) Think of data visualization as a strategic communication tool. Just as you would craft messaging, brand and vision – put the same kind of clarity and purpose in your data visualization plans.
3) Be willing to distill information, present multiple views, and to allow the content around the visualization to support the data.
4) If you decide to put data visualization in your strategic plan, be committed to growing and expanding it over time to capture growth and change longitudinally. Don’t waste money on simple snap-shots when you can go beyond presenting data and do more to learn from it instead.