Data Visualization Best Practices: How to Choose the Right Visual Display of Data

February 23, 2017

With tons of great new options for creating visual representations of data for your dashboards and analyses, it can often be hard to decide which chart, graph, or object would work best for your data visualization purposes. Here on the blog, we’ve written about the great importance of the right data visualization before. You already know that a dashboard must be able to tell the story of data in under eight seconds. You also know that choosing the wrong data visualization can confuse or inaccurately represent your data, leading to wrong business decisions.

The newest version of TARGIT Decision Suite comes with a range of new and improved tools for creating visual displays of data. We’ve expanded the entire data visualization library with new charts and graphs, and used your feedback to make the existing objects more intuitive and customizable, all in an attempt to help TARGIT users achieve better data visualization benefits.

Here are the new and updated options in the TARGIT data visualization library and when you should use them.

Funnel Chart

What is a funnel chart?

A funnel chart creates a visual display the progress of data as it passes through sequential stages. It is most commonly used to represent the sales funnel that tracks customers through sequential stages with the largest number representing the top of the funnel (leads) and the smallest number representing the bottom of the funnel (closed), with various stages of qualification in between.

Each stage of the funnel represents a percentage of the whole process being tracked. The chart is useful for comprehending the health of the process at a glance and for identifying potential problem areas.

TARGIT’s updated funnel chart now includes functionality so each element can be displayed by value or distributed evenly. For improved readability, users can also add space in between the individual elements.

funnel chart

When to use a funnel chart:

• When tracking sequential data that moves through various stages
• When the numbers in each stage are expected to move in descending order
• To reveal potential problems in a linear process
• To track progress for events such as marketing campaigns and sales processes 

Step Chart

What is a step chart?

A step chart is a variation of the traditional line chart with the line forming a series of steps in between data points. Step charts are particularly helpful visual displays of information when searching for a trend that would otherwise be hard to discern with a line chart. Examples include tracking the rise in prices of commodities such as petrol and milk, or variable rates such as interest rates and tax rates.

A line chart does display an increasing trend, but can often looked smudged and lack the clarity of a step chart. A step chart can be used simultaneously with a spline chart and waterfall chart in the same TARGIT data visualization.

step line chart

When to use a step chart:

• When you want to show changes in data that occur in irregular intervals
• When you need to discern the exact time of the change in data, along with the general trend
• When you want to compare the duration between changes in data
• When you want to compare the magnitude of changes in data

Spline Chart

What is a spline chart?

A spline chart another variation of the line chart that plots a curved line through each data point in a series. Spline charts are useful when you want to display smooth, gradual changes in data instead of spikes, such as for a product life cycle. Spline charts are considered to have an improved look and feel over traditional line charts.

A spline chart can be used simultaneously with a step chart and waterfall chart in the same TARGIT data visualization.
spline chart

When to use a spline chart:

• When you are measuring or monitoring data that is expected to make gradual changes
• To create a more aesthetically pleasing visual representation of data for your Information Consumers
• When you want to track changes over the same period of time for more than one group

Waterfall chart

What is a waterfall chart?

A waterfall chart displays the cumulative effect of sequentially introduced data values represented by columns suspended in air. Waterfall charts are ideal for showing how you have arrived at a net value by breaking down the aggregate effect of positive and negative inputs. These charts are most often used to visualize financial statements.

A waterfall chart can be used simultaneously with a step chart and spline chart in the same TARGIT data visualization.
waterfall chart

When to use a waterfall chart:

• When you want to show how you have arrived at a net value
• When you want to display changes between a specific start and end point
• When you want to display values that cross the 0 axis

Area map chart

What is an area map chart?

The newest version of TARGIT Decision Suite can now support SVG maps so users can easily add their own custom maps or illustrations to display everything from graphical areas to production floors to store layouts and so much more. This type of chart lets you place your data in a context, most often geographical, using different data layers.

Map charts are where we most often see BI users go off the deep end, negating any data visualization benefits. Whenever creating a map chart or SVG map, always ask yourself, does this add value to the data I wish to display? And remember: white space is your friend.

Here's a map area chart displaying data by geographic locations:

And here's a less traditional map area chart that uses colored circles as a visual representation of data:

area map chart

When to use an area map chart:

• When you want to display numerical or categorical data related to specific geographical or other physical locations
• You want to tell a more visually compelling story than with a line chart
• The resulting image shows a clear distribution of data points or color variants
• The story is about the visible difference in value of your data

This on-demand webinar gives you a full tour of the new data visualization capabilities and how you can use them to reap true data visualization benefits. Become a better data visualization storyteller. Watch it now.

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