By Patrick Boberg
Human beings are visual animals. It’s hard for us to comprehend something unless we see or viscerally experience it. The perfect business example is the mind numbing effect analytics can have on a meeting when the person delivering them starts spouting numbers. Data is the lifeblood of the digital economy, but without a way to properly comprehend what your sales figures, market share, unique visitor count, retention rate and every other bit of data signifies, the outlook for your company’s growth is murky at best.
Data visualization is practically a mandatory tool in today’s business environment. With the firehose of data streaming full force at your company, the only way to make sense of the interconnect is to develop charts, graphs, videos and infographics that explain to decision makers how their business is failing or succeeding.
As fancy as the term “data visualization” sounds, it has been around for a long time. Pie charts, Venn-diagrams and bar graphs have been used for decades to explain ownership, cross section relationships and economic trends. However, the new tools of visualization are designed to illuminate and guide all aspects of a project lifecycle.
If an employee were to hand you a 200-page report on the market penetration of a product, with intricate analysis of successes, failures, demographics, profits and loss, what parts are you most likely to retain? Maybe the table of contents, the report abstract and conclusions. The details would dissipate into the back reaches of your mind and eventually vanish. Tools like infographics, motion graphic videos, flow charts and interactive microsites turn details into retainable facts that elevate best practices.
For small businesses, time and money tend to dictate investment in tools that seem like a luxury. Fortunately, visualization software has become exceedingly cheap with Visual.ly and Tableau, both which offer free trials to help decision makers understand why they are important. Of course, if you already know that online images have a 200 percent greater online audience reach, then maybe you want your in-house marketing department to develop visual content. In that case, a subscription to Adobe Photoshop starts at $9/month with thousands of infographic templates and examples just a web search away.
Advertising and messaging have proven themselves important since humans started painting on cave walls. That same idea should be used internally to maximize business goals. At the very least, ask yourself which takes less time: reading a dry, 200-page book or flipping through a colorful magazine. That’s what data visualization offers. ♦
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.