Even the most important message would fall flat without appropriate visual cues to properly convey it. With the market’s oversaturation of data, plus a wealth of content clamoring for attention, you have your work cut out for you as a storyteller.
The challenge lies in capturing your audience’s attention and communicating your message in five seconds or less. This means they need to grasp your intent right away.
To ensure you present your data in the best way possible, here are four idiot-proof questions to ask yourself.
- What is the message?
Spell out your key message in one sentence. Identifying your overall key message will determine how you choose your cues. Different visuals are better at supporting different cues.
- What are the visual cues available?
For starters, people are more inclined to perceive certain visual cues (or variables) better than nonvisual cues. This means certain visual cues will allow you to present information in a form that is more accurate and specific.
The Position visual cue is the most accurate, while the Hue visual cue is least accurate. Other visual cues that help to precisely convey information include Length, Angle, and Direction.
- Which information is best supported by the visual cues of Position, Length, and Direction?
The next step is to understand the type of information you want to present. If your information is based on Selection or Grouping, Measurement, Ordering, or Steps, well that’s good news—you can support the info by using the Position, Length, or Direction visual cues.
- Selection or Grouping: Your info is based on Selection or Grouping when changes in the visual cue allow you to distinguish one point from others and to group related data points.
- Measurement: Your information is Measurement based if you can make a numeric observation from a change in data.
- Ordering: Your information is related to Ordering if the visual cue has a perceived order.
- Steps: There are steps in your information if you can perceive and represent distinct steps.
- What are the main ways to present quantitative analysis?
As quantitative analysis forms the majority, if not all, of how we present data, it’s interesting to note that most quantitative analysis can be narrowed down to charts that use only four kinds of objects. These objects—and their subsequent related charts—are effective because readers can immediately and more precisely interpret both length and position.
The four objects I refer to are Points, Lines, Bars/Columns, and Boxes. All of these objects are used in two-dimensional diagrams.
Points are used in scatter plots; lines in line charts; bars/columns in a bar chart; and boxes in a bar chart, although unlike bars and columns, boxes show distribution of an entire set of values.
Does this help you to better select between visual cues so you can present your data as a compelling story? Please share your questions and insights with us!
For more information on why data visualization is critical for your business, download the Data Storytelling Handbook.
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