Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How to choose the best visualization

Choosing the right visualization is a key interface into your data and something we spend a lot of time thinking about for our customers. Here are some simple guidelines to help clear the path to find the best visualization to use.

When choosing the best way to portray your data, you must first figure out what it is that you would like to show:

  • Comparison/relationship
  • Distribution
  • Trend
  • Composition

A comparison/relationship chart is used to compare multiple values to each other (highest vs lowest, old values vs new values, etc.). They can also be used to find correlations between two sets of data, outliers, and where the data clusters. Comparison/relationship charts are commonly used to answer questions such as “How do the sales values of this year compare to the sales values from last year?”, “What is the most popular product we are offering?”, and “What is the relationship between sales and holiday season?”

Visualization options to use for comparison/relationship:

  • Bar chart
  • Line graph
  • Data grid
  • Area chart
  • Column chart
  • Funnel chart
  • Scatter plot
  • Bubble plot

A distribution chart is used to visualize the dispersal of data points. When the data is shaped it makes it easier to identify characteristics of the data; outliers, normal ranges, tendency, etc. It is used to answer questions such as “What is the distribution of ages among customers?” and “How are the calls being distributed in our call center?”

Visualization options to use for distribution:

  • Column chart
  • Bubble chart
  • Scatter chart
  • Line graph
  • Spline graph

A trend chart is used to understand the trend over time of a variable or multiple variables. Common questions are “How did our stock price do over the course of the year?” and “What days did we have the most customers enter our store?”

Visualization options to use for trend:

  • Line chart
  • Column chart
  • Data grid
  • Spline chart

A composition chart is used to see how various parts comprise the whole and how a total value can be divided into shares. Commons questions are “What are the individual product sales as a percentage of the whole revenue?” or “How much of the market do we control in this region?”

Visualization options to use for composition:

  • Column chart
  • Bar chart
  • Pie chart
  • Stacked chart
  • Stacked area chart
  • Geo – heat maps
  • Geo – marker pins
  • Geo – marker heat maps
  • Geo – regions
  • Data grid heat map

Cloud9 Charts currently offers 19 different visualization options that allow our customers to go from data to visualizations in a snap.