I wanted to take a small break from writing about financial concepts and dedicate this week on how to present data, which is an important part of both finance and business intelligence and data science. Having knowledge in a visualization tool is a requirement in most middle to upper job vacancies nowadays and an important communication skill to have. Images are processed faster and easier than text by the brain and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, so your audience will really appreciate it if you’re able to transmit your information in a concise and graphic manner.
Doing Some Background Research
Before you jump Rambo style straight into your favorite graphic, you need to do some research and analysis first about the data you’re presenting. It’s time to get philosophical and ask yourself the important questions instead of deciding if you’re going for the cat or dog meme.
You should be answering at least the following:
-Is it a one-time only presentation or do you need charts that serve to compare results, illustrate tendencies, analyze relationships, or observe the history of what’s being presented?
-What are you trying to measure? What business segment are you presenting for?
-What units are you going to use to present the information? Periodicity?
-Will the visualization be used to explore the data with the audience or to explain? If it’s a new subject and both the audience and you don’t really have an idea about what’s going on with the data set, then you’re exploring; on the other hand, if you’re presenting about a topic such as KPIs or finance where the audience wants to know the results of past events then you’re explaining.
-How much granularity does the presentation really require? Sometimes less is better, give excessive facts and you may lose or confuse your audience. Extra details sounds like a good idea, but it can actually provide the scenario for questions that will derail the conversation from the topic.
-What are the minimum and maximum values?
–Is the data qualitative or quantitative?
–Is there a hierarchy involved? Ex. year-month-day
Choosing the right visualization
Below is an image that recommends the appropriate chart based on certain factors, which should have been part of the brainstorming questions you asked yourself.
It’s also important to apply some basics to accompany your selected chart:
-If using more than two elements assign the most important ones to the X and Y axis and the less important ones to colors, sizes or forms.
-Text should be oriented horizontally or in a manner that is easy to read.
-Keep it simple, avoid saturation (excessive items, legends, colors, etc.)
-If there is one more than one chart on your dashboard, place the most important one starting on the upper left side.
-Consider the colors the company wants to use on their presentations and how the colors on your different graphs contrast with them.
-If you’re dealing with a time series the recommended visualizations are line and bar charts (avoid the 3D ones, which can get really messy). Time is best placed on the X-axis and the measure on the Y-axis.
-Are you comparing or ranking? Then a bar or bubble chart could be your option depending on the scenario.
Thank you for reading and hopefully this provides a general overview about the thought process and considerations you need to have when coming up with visualizations for your data.