Now more than ever, companies and organizations need a way to showcase data in a way their audience can understand it and make decisions based on information. For example, the School District of Palm Beach County posts a daily Covid-19 dashboard filled with charts and tables that is clear and easy to visualize. But behind this pretty dashboard is a series of raw data and queries powering it; this is where data visualization comes into play. We will first learn more about how data visualizations work and their implications on today’s world.
But first let's start with a definition, data visualization is the process of turning data and information into a graphical representation using charts, graphs, and other methods (Tableau). Data visualization usually takes place on a data dashboard. A dashboard is used to build and showcase the graphical representations of the data that you collect. To successfully visualize data we must follow some steps (Kim):
Define your problem and figure out how that problem translates numerically.
Collect raw data and process it or join different data sets together.
‘Clean’ the data, look for errors, and try to simplify as much data as possible while still retaining necessary information to solve your problem.
Start building your data visualization dashboard, play around with different types of models, charts, graphs, and maps to see which best suits your needs. This step is also the time to choose which software you would like to use to build your dashboard; software include Microsoft Power BI and Google Analytics.
Now it's time to publish your visualization which is possibly thanks to the many integrations that dashboard softwares have.
Now that we know how to showcase our data, let's look at some real world examples of when data visualization can be used (Berinato). As mentioned before, school districts have started implementing data visualization as part of their communication efforts to parents and students. Airports use data dashboards to learn more about air traffic, such as the busiest times or the most conjuguested areas in the airspace. Stores use them to track how many customers walk in and out their stores everyday. Police departments can study areas with higher crimes and compare them to an entire city using data visualization. These are only the simplests examples; data visualization can be a very intricate process with different data pipelines and sources all coming together into one dashboard.
Simply, the main goal of data visualization is to draw a picture, a picture that tells the story of numbers and what that means to you and your audience. Now, go on and explore the world of data, and maybe you'll find a new way to visualize numbers!
Berinato, S. (2016, June 1). Visualizations that really work. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/06/visualizations-that-really-work
Kim, Sung-Soo. (2014, March 19). The data science process. http://sungsoo.github.io/2014/03/19/the-data-science-process.html
School District of Palm Beach County. (2020, September 21). Covid-19 dashboard tracks confirmed cases in schools. https://www.palmbeachschools.org/news/what_s_new/september_2020/covid19_dashboard_tracks_confirmed_cases
Tableau. (n.d.). Data visualization beginner’s guide: A definition, examples, and learning resources. Tableau. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.tableau.com/learn/articles/data-visualization