Whether it was a tough pre-calc problem your junior year, determining which paperwork you need to fly during a pandemic, or just figuring your health benefits during the open window each year, we’ve all felt it:
That moment the lightbulb clicks on.
The confusion evaporates.
The proverbial “aha!” bubble above your head.
The time you finally get it.
Understanding something means you now can make decisions, pass the test, or move on to the next chapter. And one of the easiest ways for the human brain to get more of those “aha” moments is by visualizing the outcome. Think of it as the same way you visualize results when you want to meet a certain goal. A visual imagining of the final result also works with data!
Enter: data visualization.
What is data visualization?
Data visualization, in its simplest definition, is when numbers from a spreadsheet are turned into an image like a chart or graph to better tell the story of the information presented. Data visualization allows you to see the relationship between multiple sets of data. The result? More “ohhhhh I get it” moments.
Here are a couple of examples of data visualization:
This data visualization example from Tableau uses a heatmap to help soccer fans compare players and their value in the playoffs using data aggregated from the 2018 World Cup and FIFA 18. Displaying the information in a more visual way creates a bigger impact for readers as they can quickly make the connection between the data sets. Do you think a set of number filled spreadsheets would allow the average reader to make the same connection? (hint: the answer is no)
A map is another great way to visualize data in a way that’s easier to understand than a list of states and cities. This map shows the hotspots where COVID-19 cases are high, with the most cases as the dark purple color and the fewest cases as yellow. At a glance, this data visualization tells the story of where the pandemic is hitting the hardest, much easier to conceptualize than a spreadsheet with the same information.
A timeline is a great way to visualize data that brings people along for the ride instead of just memorizing facts and dates. This image of a gastric sleeve weight loss over the course of three years, accompanied by visuals that show an increasingly slimmer shape, helps viewers understand what they can expect from surgery–and visualize what they might look like–in a much faster way than it would take to explain that information verbally or write it out in a report or chart.
Data visualization can also be as simple as a bar graph outlining the popularity of different types of nigiri in Japan. The tallest bar on the left tells us immediately that salmon is the most popular choice, followed closely by tuna, while poor uni is left in last place.
The difference between static and moving visualization visualization
The pictures above are all examples of static 2-D data visualization, a type of imagery our brains are accustomed to viewing on a screen or page. 2D is flat; when you turn it to the side, it becomes a simple line.
When you add movement and “drill-down” (also known as clicking through multiple layers), it allows for visualization from multiple perspectives, actively engaging the user’s mind.
Newton by Triplidata moves away from static 2-D imagery and employs this movement, capturing attention and increasing retention. Example: this Newton animation from Triplidata displays data from Health Care United that was previously stored in one long, tedious PDF. The animated bar graphs allow viewers to understand the status of their benefits as a conversation rather than a data dump. This leads to answers and decisions instead of glassy eyes and the never-ending loop of questions and confusion.
How will a dynamic data visualization tool such as Newton help me connect with my clients?
Let’s look at the United Health Care example above in more detail. Imagine you’re in customer care and talking through a customer about their options:
- Would you rather walk them through an endless list of tables and numbers and options, have them try to do the math in their heads, and explain over and over the benefits of one plan over another …
- Show them this image so they can visualize the savings and payments in one easy glance?
It’s a no-brainer, right? Data visualization allows you to spend more time talking about what really matters with that customer—maybe they have specific questions about a dependent or a big surgery coming up—than spending that entire time trying to help them interpret the numbers. Clicking on columns and the rotating movement allows the viewer to see how everything fits together. That’s the power of data visualization
Lulu Pinney, Telling Information blogger, adds: “People can interpret [data visualization] through their own filter. You can interpret based on your own starting point. This [scope for interpretation] opens the door to discussion…Through its propensity to drive discussion, data visualization encourages readers to engage with the data presented.”
More time on the important stuff = better relationships = trust = long-term clients.