What is Data Visualization – A Complete Guide

By Aileen Padua - Published on October 8, 2020
Data Visualization Guide

It’s amazing how the state of our brains work. Based on a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, researchers found that the human brain can process visuals 60,000 times faster than they would analyzing text. When deciding if data visualization is the right solution to check analytics for your business, then you’ve come to the right place to consider your options.

What is Data Visualization?

Because pictures are worth a thousand words, it’s better for business managers and other team members who overlook data to process information effectively.  Data visualization is simply a graphic representation of data. It’s a great way to communicate systematic mapping with visually appealing charts, maps and graphs. This is not only a straightforward solution to data analytics, but a perfect way to communicate about data within your business.

The Importance of Data Visualization

Not everything has to be complicated. With Data Visualization, having a visual summary of all the information in front of you can help you understand data easily. Because of different data values and outliers depicted on a chart, other members of your team will find it easier to read and recognize patterns within the visualization of data.

How it Works

It’s fairly simple. Once data is interpreted and analyzed from a chart or graph, this will allow more understanding of the information that’s visually  provided. The brain tends to process visuals a lot faster than text. Hence, the use of data visualization for your business will help improve how your business looks at information.

Data Visualization Today

Data visualization in today’s world is just as significant as any tool used to effectively run a business. It’s a creative concept that effectively helps the human mind to understand information. Data visualizations can often be seen in presentations, which enable decision makers to view and understand patterns, and come up with concepts for a solution.

Types of Data Visualization

Depending on how you measure your data, providing a graph, map or chart will improve data analysis and be better to understand. Before creating a graph, find out which type of chart and graph is the right fit for analyzing your data. Below are the most common types of data visualizations out there.

  1. Column Chart

    Column Chart

    Column charts are effective in emphasizing the difference between all types of values. These charts are typically depicted vertically in order to show comparisons between different types of categories. This is the best graph to use when comparing simple patterns within different types of products or categories.

  1.  Bar Graph

    Bar Graph

    Just like column charts, bar graphs are often used to compare other items and changes of patterns over time. The only difference is the way it’s depicted, which is typically in a horizontal fashion. 

  1. Stacked Bar Graph

    Stacked Bar Graph

    Similar to the bar and column graphs, the stacked bar graph is divided up into sub-parts, showing cumulative values of a data item. Each value is stacked up on top of one another by different colors to compare each part. These types of graphs are best for measuring expenditure over time.

  1. Area Chart

    Area Chart

    Area charts represent the changes in one or more quantities over time. It’s made through plotting different series of data overtime and connecting those data points through a line segment. From there each area is filled out with different shaded colors.                       

  1. Dual Axis Chart

    Dual Axis Chart

    An axis chart is when two axes are used to illustrate the relationship between two variables that have different magnitudes and scales of measurement. This is to analyze the correlations of each variable. 

  1. Line Graph

    Line Graph

    Line graphs are used to show information that tends to change over time. Several points are connected by a straight line to show the patterns between the different types of values. 

  1.  Mekko Chart

    Mekko Chart

       Similar to the area and stacked column graph, the mekko chart is a two-dimensional chart that’s stacked on top of each other to measure various segment heights. This chart is used to show relative importance between each bar by adding variables for the width of the bar. Mekko charts show patterns in growth, margin, or market share of product, segment or region.                                                                                                            

  1. Pie Chart

    Pie Chart

    Pie charts are used to show percentages between each type of category. It’s generally used to show the proportions between those categories. These are best to use if you need to compare six types of categories or fewer.

  1. Waterfall Chart

    Waterfall Chart

    Waterfall charts show forms of data visualization in a cumulative sense. This type of chart helps you understand the sequence between positive and negative values. These charts are typically used for financial purposes such as measuring monthly balances in a checking account, or deposits and transfers.                        

  1. Bubble Chart

    Bubble Chart

    Bubble charts are similar to scatter plots and are used to depict the relationships  between numeric variables. Depending on its dimension, you should be able to understand the patterns of data within this chart. Bubble charts tend to show the relatedness of different sets of values over time.                                                                                       

  1. Scatter Plot Chart

    Scatter Plot Chart

    Just like the bubble chart, scatter plots are used to measure values for different numeric variables. You can observe the relationships between the variables that are measured on the X and Y axis.

  1.  Bullet Graph

    Bullet Graph

    Bullet graphs are similar to the thermometer. However, bullet graphs are often used as dashboard gauges and meters. The main purpose of bullet graphs is to measure the performance of a primary measure to other measures provided within the data.   

  1. Funnel Chart

    Funnel Chart

    Funnel charts help you visualize linear processes that have sequential connected stages. This type of graph is used to track customer growth at different stages.        

  1. Heat Map

    Heat Map

    Heatmaps are graphical representations of data using color-coding systems that can represent different values. Used in various forms of analytics, heat maps gather insights of user interactions on a page.

Benefits of Data Visualization 

  1. Room for Improvement

    Data visualizations allow you to fix any problems that you may encounter in your data. Based on the data, providing visual aid with charts and graphs can depict your overall data, but also help and create concepts that can help you improve your ratings. 

  1. Faster Communication

    Because of data visuals, businesses can easily comprehend what’s going on within the data. It provides an effective solution for users. Having a better understanding of what’s going on in a picture of your data will allow you to process your next move to better your business. 

  1. Builds Connections

    It’s no secret that socializing is a key to effective communication. However, because of this pandemic, times have changed. We have come up with different alternatives to modify human interaction, but that doesn’t stop the distribution of data visualization for any type of presentation.  

  1. Embraces Emerging Trends

    When looking into emerging trends, it’s important to keep in mind how you want to approach a situation based on patterns seen on a chart or graph. The collection of data  on consumer behavior exposes many opportunities for companies. By using big data visualization for monitoring key indicators, businesses can spot shifts as well as trends within large data sets a lot easier.


  1. Oversimplification of Data

    It can get complicated when you try to take big values of data and try to simplify it to make it understandable. This is one of the problems that data visualization can encounter. Once you modify information to make it easier for people to analyze, you may be leaving out other important information. 

  1. Visualizationo is Inevitable

    The most popular tool to use are visuals. It’s a go-to tool for modifying complex data. Although there are other tools available to understand data, using visuals to get your point across tends to be the easiest solution. This can cause limitations in analyzing data and recognizing any human errors.  

  1. Overreliance on Visuals

    Because visuals tend to be a popular tool to turn to, problems can arise especially for consumers. With the overreliance of visuals, this can lead to misinterpretations of information because of how simplified the visual looks. People will tend to take that information as truth, which can lead to misunderstandings of what’s really the bigger picture. 

  1. Human Limitations of Algorithms

    Having limited access due to the algorithm is another problem that data visualization can run into. This will not only be a potential problem, but a very complicated issue. Because most data visualizations are rolled out on a national scale, this can the evolution of a system that fit all types of algorithms. This can lead to  failure of addressing specific needs of users and businesses alike.

Tips for Data Visualization 

  1. Finding the Right Charts and Graphs

    The first step in data visualization is finding the right graph  to fit all of your data. It’s crucial that using a chart or graph that’s suitable for your data will create a better connection and understanding information. This will lead to helpful business insights and effective decision making.

  1. Using Predictable Patterns for Layouts

    Using indicators that are pleasing to the eye will keep users engaged by your data. Make sure the format of your data looks easy to understand for your viewers and keep it as simple as possible. It’s better to keep your results straightforward rather than overwhelming for a person. Keep all of your graphs and charts consistent and transparent. 

  1. Use Color Cues

    The use of color is another tip that can effectively help your data visualization. Whether it’s brighter colors or using multiple shades that accentuate important information, highlighting important points of data with a specific color will help engage viewers. Data visualization is all about conveying information without the use of worlds. Hence, this is where colors come in. 

  1. Use Sizing to Emphasize Values

    Yes, size matters. In this case, emphasizing certain values to make a point. Using sizing tools on your data points will help analyze the relationship between patterns and data points. You also want to make sure that the sizing is equivalent as its value. 

  1. Carefully and Intentionally Apply Text

    Text placement is another way to get the attention of viewers. You can intentionally apply text within your graphs and charts as long as it makes sense to your data. Using text where it counts can help improve data visualization and complement a person’s understanding when viewing your data on a chart or graph.

Final Thoughts

The importance of data visualization can help you dominate marketing shifts and consumer behavior. Not only that, but the use of data visualization can easily help other businesses leaders understand and effectively make decisions to improve their marketing strategies. In essence, data visualization is a common way to engage others who are overlooking data and trying to understand the patterns. It can be helpful but complicated at times depending on what kind of data you’re analyzing. Depending on how you measure your data, it’s also important to think about the types of graphs you should use to present to other people within your company. You want to make communication between you and your peers  straightforward and engaging.

Knowing about what the next steps you take is inevitable when working in the digital marketing industry. You have to move fast and figure out solutions to succeed.

Aileen Padua | Aileen Padua is an aspiring social media coordinator. She is currently majoring in Advertising at Fresno State University. With her understanding about the power of social media, Aileen is passionate about preserving and enhancing the image of one’s reputation in the public eye.

Aileen Padua | Aileen Padua is an aspiring social media coordinator. She is currently majoring in Advertising at Fresno State University. With her understanding a...

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