Chances are, your company spends a lot of time and money gathering data in the hopes of gaining valuable insight. Many times, however, important KPIs and impactful data get lost in cluttered spreadsheets and useless dashboards.
A good dashboard should illustrate a story quickly and efficiently so that the end user is able to easily draw conclusions from that data. And the best way to convert a lot of data into something that is easy to interpret is through the use of graphs, charts, and tables.
Let’s take a look at three types of charts for data visualization that will take your dashboard game to the next level.
Bar charts are the best way to visually represent multiple series of data that have a relationship to each other on one display. They can show data over a variety of related categories such as products, costs, and sales in a way that is easy to understand. Need to compare those categories over multiple locations? No problem.
However, bar charts often get pushed aside because they’re thought of as too simplistic. Remember though, that the best dashboards are designed to be straightforward and provide information that is free of clutter.
Sparklines are perfect for showing the trend of a single set of data points over a period of time. This is a perfect example of “less is more.” A sparkline is impactful in it’s simplicity.
Sparklines can illustrate data such as:
- Production costs – Are we spending more or less to make our products this year? Check the spark line to track your costs in real time.
- Customer volume – Is your website showing an increase in traffic over the last week? Or have your unique visitors stopped showing up? A sparkline can help to visualize the trend so that a course correction can be made quickly.
- Revenues – Wow, your company just had a great month, and this month is on track to be even better! Keep track of revenue trends to help your sales team refine their strategy.
A bullet chart is another simplistic representation of data that also doesn’t take up a lot of space on your dashboard. In one small visualization, you can show multiple relationships between data points on whatever category you can think of.
Bullet charts work best when you need to represent your progress towards a larger goal. Need to track your sales in a logical way? You can use a bullet chart to demonstrate your actual sales, targeted sales, and projected sales, as well as your current sales amounts all in one graph.
For such a tiny visualization, bullet charts pack a lot of punch.
Pie charts tend to receive a bad rap when it comes to data visualization. However, when used correctly, pie charts can be extremely effective. Pie charts are essentially designed to present an answer to a yes or no question. Visually, they can be confusing because they don’t always add up to 100%. Which is the main source of negativity around using them.
When using pie charts, keep it as simple as possible. Comparing anymore than 2-3 data points makes it hard to read with too many skinny slices. The best and most effective way to use a pie chart is when comparing 2-3 data points that are significantly different. For instance, 12% of males shop at your store compared to 88% of females.
Designing for the Future
When designing your dashboard, consider all of the different ways to visualize the data. And don’t stick to one chart or graph. Mix it up.
Consider the data, then, determine which chart types will relay the information most effectively. By carefully considering the type of story you’d like to illustrate – whether it be a relationship between two variables or a comparative guide, you’ll be able to create a clearer and more effective message.
Ashley is a freelance writer, blogger and digital marketing professional living in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in crafting content that attracts and converts customers.