Monday, August 8, 2016

Approaches and Trends in Data Visualization and Storytelling

By: Mike Page, Blueocean Market Intelligence Vice President - Client Development and Technology

As a data integration software and services firm we see a lot of requests to deliver reports and presentations that are visually engaging and tell a clear story for the user to understand what to do next. We also are asked to provide dashboards and visuals that empower the user to take control of the path they chose through direct engagement with the data. Often these requests are mixed together - even though they are very different. There are even awards for best infographic (story) or data visualization (democracy). So how can these approaches be used together or should you choose one? Here are some approach observations and best practices that we have learned from experience.

Data Visualization

·         Be clear. If the desire is to empower the user to take control, then allow it. Often systems designed to empower the user to engage with the data have so many controls the result is too static or controlled to allow for that spark of creativity in interpreting or deducing the insights from the data.
·         Engage with stakeholders. Share concepts, and ideally working prototypes, of any system as early as possible in the process to drive engagement.
·         Encourage collaboration. Systems of this type work best when an element of communication and collaboration is built in to encourage people to share what they are getting from the system and get feedback from other users.
·         Even better, give awards for best use of the system and share stories.

Storytelling

·         Again, be clear. Even with infographic views, it is best to stick to reality. If something is 5% bigger make it 5%, not an image twice the size. This cause confusion and can create mistrust in the story being told.
·         Communicate only one key message and show how the data backs up the conclusion in a way that builds trust and strikes the right tone for the user. Translation - don’t dumb it down or show things that are blindingly obvious.

The key to success is understanding that the two approaches have a very different outcome and that when developing your strategy, you can use both tools but not as one initiative. Using the approaches mentioned and with a full understanding of each purpose, you can avoid a mixed message and ensure whatever your project requirements, and whoever your stakeholders are, you have a consistent approach to communicating and establishing the value and the strategy for using research data within your business.

About Blueocean Market Intelligence: Blueocean Market Intelligence is a global analytics and insights provider that helps corporations realize a 360-degree view of their customers through data integration and a multi-disciplinary approach that enables sound, data-driven business decision. To learn more, visit www.blueoceanmi.com.

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