The Importance of Clear and Simple Data Visualization

When it comes to data visualization, it’s crucial to consider your audience’s needs and knowledge level. As a data person, it’s easy to get excited about complex visualizations that show off your data analysis skills. However, if your audience doesn’t understand the visualization, it’s not fulfilling its intended purpose.
When it comes to presenting data for decision-making, it’s essential to ensure that it’s clear and easily digestible.

I follow the Visual Capitalist website for their fascinating visualizations. As a data person, I often wonder if non-data people can quickly understand the information presented.


For example, I recently came across a Sankey chart that initially caught my eye:

Upon closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t presenting the information I was expecting.
Mind you, my screen looked like that:

The focal number of $1.18T appeared as a negative number, leading me to believe that exports were higher than imports.

However, upon reading the article, I discovered that the chart was displaying different information altogether.

This chart, which was further down the article, helped me understand the numbers:

While the chart was visually stunning, it wasn’t the most effective way to present data to decision-makers. Instead, I recommend using straightforward charts that clearly display the data. If different aspects of the same data need to be shown, it’s better to use multiple charts, one at a time.

To illustrate, here’s a simple chart that displays only the deficit in the Trade Balance of Goods:

And just in case you feel that it is a bit too simple, you can embellish it a little bit (Not that I recommend doing that):

I believe charts should be designed with the audience’s needs in mind, and they should be able to quickly and easily understand the presented information.


In other words, the charts should be easily digestible.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that all visualizations should be simple. There’s definitely a place for more complex visualizations that are intended for data analysts or other experts. However, when it comes to presenting data to decision-makers, simplicity is often the best approach.


Another important consideration when creating data visualizations is the presented data type. Some types of data are better suited for certain types of visualizations. For example, line charts are great for showing trends over time, while pie charts are useful for displaying proportions.


Choosing the correct type of chart for your data ensures that the visualization is as effective as possible.
In conclusion, while complex data visualizations can be impressive, there are better approaches when it comes to presenting data to decision-makers. Instead, clear and straightforward charts that are designed with the audience’s needs in mind are often the most effective. By keeping these considerations in mind, you can create data visualizations that are both informative and easily digestible.

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