Data Visualization Best Practices You Need To Know

Data Visualization Best Practices You Need To Know

Data visualization is a great way to communicate data and content in an easy-to-understand way. Using data visualization, you can represent data with line charts, line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, scatter plots or maps.

When you visually represent data, it’s easier to understand and analyze. It also makes decision making easier, as well as understanding difficult concepts. Graphic designers must follow data visualization best practices so that they can present their data in the best ways possible. This can be necessary when working with huge data sets that are often complicated and incoherent.

This article outlines the top 14 best data visualization practices so that you can create even better charts and graphs.

The 14 Best Practices for Good Data Visualization

Define the Purpose of Your Graphic

Chart created with wpDataTables

Before you even start inputting data, think about the purpose of your data. Doing this will help you to choose which data points you want to focus on and help build a compelling story with your data. Here are some good questions to ask yourself.

  • Who is this graphic for?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What questions may they have after my data visualization project, and how would I answer those questions?

Using great data visualization techniques will help answer important questions, and may be a critical factor in the decision-making process. When you decide what the purpose of your data set is, the result will be more streamlined and more interesting.

Identify Your Graphics’ Target Audience and Their Needs

Chart created with wpDataTables

If your target audience cannot understand your graphic, it has failed its purpose. That is why it is so important that you know who your target audience is, as well as how you should show your sequential data to them.

As an example, if you are making a graphic titled “Hair Salon Revenue in 2025,” your target audience is most likely hair salon owners. Then you should show your data in a visually appealing way for that specific audience. Focus your data on valuable information that will be useful for this audience and help draw attention to your main points.

It is often a good idea to also identify the “highest priority persona” in your audience. This often includes using empathy and putting yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, “What difficulties or roadblocks are they going through, and how can the right chart help?” Doing this will help keep users engaged as well as provide context to your graphic.

 

Your beautiful data deserves to be online

wpDataTables can make it that way. There’s a good reason why it’s the #1 WordPress plugin for creating responsive tables and charts.

An actual example of wpDataTables in the wild

And it’s really easy to do something like this:

  1. You provide the table data
  2. Configure and customize it
  3. Publish it in a post or page

And it’s not just pretty, but also practical. You can make large tables with up to millions of rows, or you can use advanced filters and search, or you can go wild and make it editable.

“Yeah, but I just like Excel too much and there’s nothing like that on websites”. Yeah, there is. You can use conditional formatting like in Excel or Google Sheets.

Did I tell you you can create charts too with your data? And that’s only a small part. There are lots of other features for you.

Clean Your Data

Chart created with wpDataTables

Before you start your graph, you want to clean your raw data. This means filtering out anomalies or inaccuracies so that you can accurately represent your data.

This can be essential for future uses of your data, in case you want to make another graphic later. Inaccuracies can also skew decision making, which can have terrible effects on your data sets.

Choose the Style of Your Data Visualization

Chart created with wpDataTables

Now you are almost ready to get started on your graphic; all that you have to do is choose the style that you want to use for your data visualization process.

Not only will the right chart help display data in an easy-to-understand way, but a good chart can also help present it accurately. Before you decide which data visualization tool you want to use, think about the data that you want to convey, and who it’s for.

Here are a couple of suggestions.

  • Scatter plot charts are very useful if you want to show correlations between data sets.
  • Using a line chart can be great if you want to show patterns or changes over some time.
  • Donut charts can be great if your data contributes to a meaningful whole. You can also use donut charts whether you’re using seven different categories of data sets or only

Can’t Decide? Try Bar Charts!

Chart created with wpDataTables

You may wonder why bar charts have their own subpoint, but the truth is that bar charts simply work wonderfully. You can almost never go wrong with a bar chart, and they should always be considered.

This isn’t to say that the bar chart is perfect. Due to the style of the chart, many people don’t scan the entire bar itself. This means that people often assume that the bars in a bar chart will start at 0, which may not always be the case. If you have this problem, try starting the y-axis at the value of 0, and if that is not possible, mark otherwise.

Using bar charts primarily can be a great way to keep your data clean, accurate and clear. This is not to say that there is no use for the pie chart; all charts have different uses. It’s your decision whether to use a pie chart or a bar chart, but bar charts can be a great place to start.

Use Text Sparingly

Chart created with wpDataTables

Using text can be a dangerous game; using too much text makes the chart busy and boring, but only using visuals may not be sufficient. If you do decide to use text, make sure that you only use it for important details.

For vital points, try using the top left corner. This is the first place that the human brain tends to look at first. After that, try using about three to four different views, one of the most common data visualization best practices out there. The reason for this practice is mainly to prevent the use of too many graphs, as that would make it difficult to understand.

Try to Cluster, But Don’t Clutter

Chart created with wpDataTables

No matter how much you keep your data visualizations simple, complex data will arrive. There’s only so much data simplification you can do before the story of your graph will fade away.

This means that you will have to cluster your data, but make sure that it doesn’t start to clutter. You can do this by using two recognizable patterns: proximity and similarity.

  • “Proximity” is when you move objects or data closer to each other or group them together.
  • “Similarity” is when you group objects or data that are similar together. This is often done using a color palette.

Label Your Chart in Effective Ways

Graphs can help identify patterns in categorical data quickly, but sometimes they can’t show specific values. This means that if you have a value of particular importance, you need to use labels to visualize data effectively.

This means more than just the figure itself; you need to show why this data is important. A caption can be perfect for this and should always accompany your figure. This caption should explain why the figure is important, as well as give additional precision in places not often possible when showing data graphically.

Use a Pattern For Your Data Visualizations

Humans love patternsits in our nature. Our eyes want to tell us the most important information first, and patterns are the first thing that our eyes will notice. We naturally look for patterns. Random patterns make things difficult to understand, whereas good patterns help us understand information more quickly. Naturally, patterns are one of the most important of all data visualization best practices today.

We can capitalize on patterns by making more data patterns within our graphs. This can be done numerically, sequentially or alphabetically.

If you are using a chart, make sure that the connections you have within your data are made clear. You interpret data; don’t force your viewers to do so as well.

Use Color to Your Advantage

Chart created with wpDataTables

Colors can be a great help for effective data visualization. Not only can it help you communicate important information, but it does so without taking up any extra space.

Be careful, though. Too many colors can make a graph unusable, and too much of one color can make your data blend together. Also make sure you use colors that work well together, as this will greatly assist how consistent your visualizing data will be.

Use Size to Your Advantage

Image source

Size can help you to emphasize important information as well as give context. Shape can even be as effective as color to help differentiate data values.

Size can also be used to great effect with maps. Whenever you have multiple data points that all are the same size, they can easily blend. If you make their size relative to their value, the data visualization will be easier to navigate as a result.

Use Dashboards

Video source

For the most effective data visualization, you will need to know what dashboard you are giving your audiences. There are three different dashboards that you can use.

Strategic

Strategic dashboards are designed for C-Suite personnel and department heads to show success concerning KPI metrics.

Analytical

Analytical dashboards are made to be interactive. They give team members a way of experimenting and researching the data for stakeholder concerns.

Operational

Operational dashboards are made to be frequently updated with new information. This helps them to contain information about everyday operations that aren’t restricted to high-level viewers.

Make Your Data Visualizations Inclusive

If you have been following the points in this article so far, you are probably using color to great effect in your charts. This is great, but make sure that you are using multiple colors.

Charts that use too many similar colors without enough contrast are difficult enough to read for the average person, but people who don’t have perfect vision may not be able to read your information at all. The WHO estimates that about 253 million people are visually impaired, so it is a good idea to prepare for this.

Luckily, many tools can help you check how people with impairments see your graphs. An example of this would be the color blindness proofing in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Other than that, make sure that you use large fonts and sufficient contrast between the background and your text. With the right data visualization tool under your belt, you will be fine.

Last of All, Keep It Simple

Most content marketers know that content needs to be short and sweet, and this applies to your data visualizations as well. You want your data visualization to be designed to make the maximum impact that it can make.

When you format your data visualization with the data visualization best practices, you will help your audience:

  • More readily use your data visualizations to answer questions and strategize effectively
  • Help themselves to more information as needed
  • Quickly understand high-level overview information

Remember that you are trying to be succinct and clear, so explain your story in the simplest way you can.

How Will the Data Visualization Best Practices Help?

Analyzing and effectively visualizing big data sets has become one of the most important factors for informing business intelligence and making decisions. A data set can be the makeorbreak factor in many businesses, and that is something in your control.

Using the proper data visualization best practices can make a world of difference. If you follow the guidelines above, you can make sure that your data visualizations are the best that they can be.

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