Four Tips For Data Visualization

A key focus of my blogging platform is technology. In today’s digital world, everything involves some form of data generation, analysis and processing. Regarding analysis, prepping the data so that it can be visualized by others is key in terms of communicating its meaning. The following contributed post is entitled, Four Tips For Data Visualization.

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Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Computing power has largely solved many of the problems relating to collecting and processing data. Computers have not, however, solved the problem of effectively communicating the results of data analysis. That still comes down to human skill and judgment. Here are four tips to help.

Start from the raw source data (if possible)

Starting from the raw data will eliminate the possibility of you repeating any errors which have been made by other people. It will also keep your data visualization from being skewed by any unconscious bias in existing visualizations of the same data.

As a rule of thumb, this is most important with older data. Studies that were considered cutting-edge in their day might be viewed as seriously flawed now. They might also have been interpreted in the light of outdated assumptions and perceptions. It does, however, still apply to data provided by modern analytical laboratory services.

Think about your audience

Data visualization is usually easiest when you have a clearly-defined audience of people with a similar level of knowledge. It doesn’t really matter if they know nothing about the topic or if they’re experts. What matters is that they all have approximately the same level of knowledge.

If you’re catering to an audience with a broad range of knowledge, then you probably want to create multiple data visualizations. Start with one which assumes no/the least knowledge and then work up from there. Signpost these clearly so people can see which one(s) are likely to be of most benefit to them.

Focus on clarity

One of the biggest errors in data visualization is to try to fill visualizations with too much information. This may be a legacy from the days when everything was on paper so printing costs were always a concern. These days, however, data visualizations will almost always be viewed on a screen so make the most of everything this offers.

Also, be aware of its limitations. With printing, you have complete control over the use of color. With digital visualizations, by contrast, you’re dependent on the screen to reproduce the color faithfully. High-end screens generally do this very well, but lower-end ones are unlikely to be so accurate.

This means that you should usually avoid relying on conveying fine details by subtle changes of color. Instead, you generally want to use as much contrast as possible. This also goes for the text and the background. Furthermore, all text should be in simple fonts. It’s fine to bold important words occasionally, but avoid italics and regular use of capital letters.

Look for ways to make visualizations interactive

This is only possible if a person is going to view a data visualization on their own device. This is, however, likely to be the case a lot of the time, so it’s always worth considering. Interactive data visualizations follow the same principle as having a person click on a link for more information. Instead of going to a new page, however, a part of the visualization expands.

Author: anwaryusef

Anwar Y. Dunbar is a Regulatory Scientist. Being a naturally curious person, he is also a student of all things. He earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan and his Bachelor’s Degree in General Biology from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU). Prior to starting the Big Words Blog Site, Anwar published and contributed to numerous research articles in competitive scientific journals reporting on his research from graduate school and postdoctoral years. After falling in love with writing, he contributed to the now defunct, and the Edvocate where he regularly wrote about: Education-related stories/topics, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Financial Literacy; as well as conducted interviews with notable individuals such as actor and author Hill Harper. Having many influences, one of his most notable heroes is author, intellectual and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, author of books including Outliers and David and Goliath. Anwar has his hands in many, many activities. In addition to writing, Anwar actively mentors youth, works to spread awareness of STEM careers, serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium, serves as Treasurer for the JCSU Washington, DC Alumni Chapter, and is active in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Ministry at the Alfred Street Baptist Church. He also tutors in the subjects of biology, chemistry and physics. Along with his multi-talented older brother Amahl Dunbar (designer of the Big Words logos, inventor and a plethora of other things), Anwar is a “Fanboy” and really enjoys Science-Fiction and Superhero movies including but not restricted to Captain America Civil War, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Prometheus. He is a proud native of Buffalo, NY.

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