Big Design: Breaking the Data Visualization Code

Researchers must be proactive in presenting strong data visuals to reduce bias in research and create clear pathways for strategic thinking with data.

data visualization

Charts full of numbers can seem meaningless and daunting when presented to stakeholders, even when they contain valuable data. Eva Kaniasty, founder and principal consultant with Red Pill UX, a Boston-based user experience consultancy, has cracked the data presentation code with her methods of data visualization.

Kaniasty talked last week at the Big Design event about the best and worst ways to make all the data and numbers acquired by data analysts more readable. Most importantly, she taught data analysts how to show clients, “what’s really important here?” 

Researchers must be proactive in presenting strong data visuals to reduce bias in research and create clear pathways for strategic thinking with data, Kaniasty said.

‘NO-GO’ METHODS OF DATA VISUALIZATION

The list of “no-go” methods in data visualization begins with the user research phase of data collection, she said.

Kaniasty said using videos to empathize with consumers is not the best route, citing a lack of sufficient resources that can lead to inconsistencies. 

“Unless you have a constant army of interns to edit your videos together, you probably won’t do it on a consistent basis,” she said.

“If you read anything about visualization, it says pie charts should be avoided.”
Eva Kaniasty

Instead, she suggests using photos of consumers that are not polished or posed.

In the design and analysis phases, she told the audience to quit using pie charts.

“If you read anything about visualization, it says pie charts should be avoided,” Kaniasty said, drawing chuckles from the crowd. Instead analysts should go for bar charts, tree maps, and iconography. 

DATA VISUALIZATION AND STAKEHOLDERS

Data visualization simplifies the way stakeholders read findings.

It also includes your stakeholders in the process, and allows them to get the full picture of the data. When a stakeholder can understand the steps taken to reach a set of data, they are more likely to act on the results, Kaniasty said.

“Unless I get (the stakeholders) engaged in every step of the process, it’s hard to get them to act on the findings,” Kaniasty said. 

She left her audience with a final message about the power of visuals 

“Make things pretty,” she said. “Visuals are truly 100 fold more engaging than words and it’s something we should be taking advantage of.”


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