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Data Visualization Tips for Beginners

April 26, 2017

The following is a guest blog post by TARGIT partner Kapacity Business Analytics's Niels Hundahl, Director of Business Development, and Jakob Olesen, Business Analytics Consultant. Kapacity’s goal is to unite technology and business needs on the customer’s terms. The company has extensive experience working with various projects in the data warehouse and analytics industry, from the public sector to private retail and everything in between.

We hear it time and again: Companies are drowning in data. But implementing a powerful BI system and strategy is just the first step to actually becoming a data-driven company.

Obviously, we believe a solid data warehouse back-end is critical for any company hoping to harness their data. But if you’re only focusing on what to put in the back-end without also considering how to deliver that data to the people who need it, this isn’t BI. You’re barely hitting the tip of the iceberg of what can be accomplished.

How to make data visualization work

Data visualization is a game changer for those who are used to making their decisions based on Excel spreadsheets or outdated reports. Even when we develop a complete and modern data warehouse solution with our clients, the potential benefits might be lost if the importance of data visualization isn’t understood and accepted by both the client and our own data warehouse/BI team. That’s why data visualizations –created with companies’ own data—is one of the first things we show those who are assessing just how much change BI could bring to their organizations.

Departments such as Sales, Marketing, and Production don’t necessarily need or want to mess around with the back-end engine that’s behind their analyses. They want to know if they can get the insight they need into the part of the business they are responsible for. And they want to be able to make decisions with a solid idea of what’s to come.

With a BI solution in place, our tip is to first map out what to measure and how to best tailor the most important analyses to those who need them. To start this dialog, we usually ask our clients for some sample data, then start visualizing and prototyping. This approach fosters creativity and makes participants’ unspoken ideas become concrete.

TARGIT has created a guide to help companies understand how to determine which KPIs matter most: The Metrics That Matter. And how to determine and better understand the different audiences and how to best cater to them with BI: How to Ensure the Highest User Adoption Rates for your BI Project.

Data Visualization Tips for BI Beginners

1. Less is More

You have eight seconds to get your point across in a dashboard before you lose attention spans. So you need that dashboard to be clear, concise, and not overly stuffed with charts and objects. White space is your friend. Focus on what is most important and guide the user through the dashboard.

data visualization tips

Visuals should be intuitive so they inspire the user to click for further drilling into the details. The use of icons displaying data can be used to make the user aware of further possibilities for drilling or new levels of details. Use forced operations such as “Select geography,” “choose store,” “select vendor,” or “select product” to help Information Consumers immediately understand where they should be drilling into for information.

data visualization tips

2. Consider Colors Carefully

Colors are closely tied to human emotion and primary colors especially have direct correlations to positive, negative, or neutral warnings. It’s most efficient to only use one indicator as an alert—for example a colored dot—and no indicator if figures are as expected. Don’t cross signals. And don’t overwhelm the dashboard with a rainbow cacophony. One color in different gradings may be enough to get your point across clearly. Use the color to support the focus you want the user to have in the analysis.

data visualization tips for beginners

3. Consistency Across Platforms

Your website and other internal platforms are important representations of your brand. Your dashboards should be too. Make sure you have a uniformity and familiarity across them. Use your logo, brand colors, font styles, etc. from your design guide if you have one. It’s a great idea to involve your Marketing department when first designing dashboards and analyses – consistency and branding is their expertise.
data visualization tips
 

4. Common start page

Our experience has taught us that a great user experience starts with a common Start Page within your analytics platform. A good start page anchors the solution across the organization with a single access point. It also addresses the different target user groups and highlights ways to find or view data that is relevant to those users or business areas.

 The newest version of TARGIT Decision Suite has incorporated a Splash Screen that pops up as soon as the solution is opened. This screen gives users access to the latest documentation, resources, and Tips & Tricks videos from TARGIT directly in the product. This screen can be customized to show your own company documentation or provide portal access.

splash

Follow these four rules when designing your dashboards to increase the effectiveness of your analytics. This isn't everything, but it's a great launching off point for those who are new to data visualization or those looking to increase BI adoption throughout the company. For more tips and tricks, take a look at these additional resources:



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