Three Critical Elements of a Data Visualization Partner
Perhaps the most common line that data visualization agencies hear from new clients who have unsuccessfully tried visualization projects before is:
“They just didn’t understand our data.”
The root cause of such a statement is typically that those clients hired a graphic design agency without a data-focused team. Although the finished products may seem similar, data visualization is a very different process than graphic design. Therefore, a company choosing a data visualization partner needs to look for different qualities than what they would normally seek in a design firm.
The 3 critical elements to look for when choosing a data visualization partner are:
A data-focused planning team
Information designers instead of graphic designers
Access to enterprise-class business intelligence platforms
Data Visualization Partner Element #1: The Data-Focused Planning Team
In order to effectively plan a data visualization project, a chosen partner must be able to understand the implications and restrictions of the data being visualized. During the initial discovery phase, a good data visualization partner will utilize two key team members:
A business analyst – This team member is responsible for understanding what the data being visualized means to the business and how the visualization will impact it.
The information architect – This team member understands how the data can be organized to best meet the objectives of the visualization and will often have suggestions to identify the specific data needs of the intended demographic.
The purpose of the discovery phase is to determine:
The intent of the project
What data exists
The accuracy of the data
What the data represents
How the data can be disseminated in a clear, easily understood fashion
Technical and design requirements
Project timeline and budget
A data-focused planning team can gain an accurate and complete understanding of the scope of work and its purpose, which is an essential foundation for the project.
Data Visualization Partner Element #2: Information Designers instead of Graphic Designers
Once a data-focused planning team has finished preparing a project, it can be tempting to use a traditional graphic designer to complete the project. However, a graphic designer, while skillful and creative, is not necessarily an information designer.
An information designer is a specific subset of graphic designers who have an education and training in how to represent data visually. Many Universities and Colleges are acknowledging the unique skill set needed for this role and offering specific degrees for Information Design. In addition to the design and creative skills of a graphic designer, an information designer will know what your data means – and that can eliminate a lot of challenges that come from having to educate a traditional graphic designer.
It is important to note that an information designer is not less creative or artistic than other graphic designers. Truly effective data visualizations show the data in creative and insightful ways while still representing the important story that the data tells. It’s the blend of data-awareness and creative skills that makes an information designer critical to the process.
Data Visualization Partner Element #3: Access to enterprise-class platforms
A data visualization partner should not be limited by their ability to work with data. As such, excellent partners will have access to enterprise-class platforms, like the ones offered by MicroStrategy, or in-house analysts and tools by which they can effectively interpret data brought to them by their clients. Without this, the firm is essentially locked into using the client’s system and resources, which can cause delays and other challenges in completing the final project.
Data visualization projects represent a significant benefit when executed properly, and that makes them too important to be trusted to just anyone. By partnering with a data visualization team that is properly focused on the data first, employs information designers and has access to enterprise-class data platforms, clients will ensure the final result is tailored to their specific needs and accomplishes its intended purpose.
Boost Labs specializes in Data Visualization and User Interface Design to bring life to great ideas, whether they result in print, web, mobile, or other products. Contact us to find out how our team of data specialists can make your data visualization project a success.
Visualization as a Data Analysis Tool: More Than Just a Pretty Face
“Data analysis.” Those two words can make any employee assigned that particular task cringe. With the enormous amount of raw data pouring into businesses these days, the job of analyzing, organizing, and presenting information clearly and concisely can be overwhelming. This process, however, can be made much easier through data visualization, which is not just making a report prettier.
What is Visualization?
Data visualization is the process of collecting, understanding, and conveying information using graphic representations.
Imagine a pre-1980s newspaper with an article full of statistics, analyses and conclusions. Suddenly, along comes The USA Today in 1982 featuring “USA Today Snapshots,” those colorful little bar graphs and pie charts in the lower left-hand corner of the newspaper. Readers could now understand complex information with a glance.
Business administrators face a similar challenge each and every day. Staring down reams and reams of documentation or screen after screen of data, crunching the numbers, comprehending what those numbers mean, and presenting the facts is not easy.
“Design” isn’t a Dirty Word When it Comes to Data Analysis
A picture is worth a thousand words…and data visualization is worth a fortune when employees utilize it correctly. CTOs and CIOs use algorithms to build user profiles based on online user activity, cookies, and purchasing habits. Government agencies generate work force reports based on census figures, IRS data and so forth.
To some, data visualization means taking all of that raw information and creating a report featuring basic graphic elements (pie charts, graphs, etc.) and page after page of statistical analysis. Most company’s clients, managers and staff simply don’t have the time to process those types of reports.
With a top quality visualization key information is boiled down to its essence with simple-to-read, easy-to-understand, high-end graphic representations. This makes the reporting easier to comprehend, and allows the user to add context to data that may otherwise be difficult to see. Multi-dimensional charts, interactive dashboards and even infographics give data better storytelling potential than text alone.
Consider this example: Travelers Insurance wanted a report that could communicate a great deal of information without requiring high-level understanding of the data behind it. The result was an excellent series of static infographics that each show valuable information about specific topics in an easy to understand way.
Visualize Your Future
Every statistic tells a story. The purpose of data visualization is to understand and process those stories efficiently. Data visualization simplifies the difficult task of analysis so companies can focus on the real work—using the information to move the company forward. Visualization isn’t just a way to make data look better, it’s a way to make the data work better.
Contact us and let us help your data analysis tell the right story, the best way it can.
Digital Dashboard Basics: What, Why and How to Get Started
Data is valuable, and information gained from data is definitely worth something. But without an effective method for turning data into actionable information and extracting its value, even the most comprehensive data set can be worthless.
Enter digital dashboards. By prioritizing collected data and showing the most critical information at a glance, digital dashboards make complex information more understandable and immediately actionable.
What is a Digital Dashboard?
A digital dashboard visually organizes the current status, historical trends, and key performance indicators of a system in an easily understood data visualization. It’s similar to the way a car’s dashboard keeps the driver constantly updated on the vehicle’s key performance indicators such as speed, mileage, engine temperature and available fuel.
A digital dashboard custom built for your organization can provide a live stream of information to top level personnel. A dashboard will allow end users to work with complex data relationships and monitor key performance indicators even if they are not trained data analysts. Immediate, critical awareness of essential company information gives savvy organizations a distinct edge in the decision making and management process.
Why Use a Digital Dashboard?
All of the data that goes into a digital dashboard is already available through other tools and reports. The advantage of using a Digital Dashboard is that even immensely complex information collected across multiple sources can be evaluated and digested quickly.
Case Study: Digital Dashboards in Action
In 2012, the US Census Bureau was looking to visualize a complex set of employment data for the general public. Our team proposed a custom-built dashboard application that would serve the Bureau’s needs best. The Census Dashboard Application compared state employment data over time by age, industry, and location. It presents the data in an easy to understand, interactive format.
The ability to screen vast volumes of information according to the end user’s specific needs – and then reveal insights in a format that’s readily understandable – that makes the dashboard an unparalleled tool for data analysis.
Designing A Digital Dashboard
To be most effective, a digital dashboard must be uniquely designed to meet a specific business need. There are four project phases to work through when designing a Digital Dashboard:
Discovery Phase – What are the specific business use cases?
When designing a Digital Dashboard, it is essential to start by defining the tool’s scope. Boost Labs calls this phase the Discovery Phase. Once these design constraints are established, our project team can recommend data formats, types, and set sizes.
Analysis Phase – What’s really “in” the available data?
One of the things we do best is data analysis. During the Analysis Phase, our business analysis and information architects scour the data for analogous and actionable relationships, including obtuse, unconsidered, and multifaceted connections. This analysis is highly dependent on information learned in the Discovery Phase. This analysis is highly dependent on information learned in the Discovery Phase. It’s only after understanding what information the dashboard will display that we begin the Design Phase.
Design Phase – What will our dashboard look like?
Getting the most out of a digital dashboard isn’t just a matter of slapping a ton of information on a single screen. In fact, oftentimes the dashboard’s layout is just as important as the content itself. Our team works tirelessly drafting sketches, wireframes, and mockups until an ideal design solution is uncovered. We value client feedback during all stages of the project; however, in the Design Phase, we consider it vital. Once the ideal design is approved, our team progresses to the Development Phase.
Development Phase – How does the design work?
Once a design receives approval, it’s time to put it into action. Our developers work to build a prototype, and then perform tests and refinements as needed. After everything has been tested and works as intended, we launch the site!
The truth of dashboards is that they simplify information without muting its impact. They give end users more control over their data. Dashboards not only enhance the user’s productivity, but they do so with a visual experience that is dynamic and memorable.
If you feel you’re not getting full value from your organization’s available information, Contact us so we can help you determine the potential of your information, and design a custom dashboard to unlock it.