What Is Data Visualization

In the world of Big Data, data visualization tools and technologies have become essential for any business that wants to make impactful data-driven decisions. Using visual elements like charts, graphs, and maps, data visualization tools provide an accessible way to see and understand trends, outliers, and patterns in data. With a projected 149 zettabytes of data in the world by 2024, every business, whether in finance, marketing, or tech industries, will need to be able to interpret increasingly more significant amounts of data. 

However, many businesses are still unfamiliar with data visualization, what it is, and how to use it. This post will take a deeper dive into that subject and answer a prevalent question – what is data visualization?

What Is Data Visualization?

The term data visualization refers to the process of creating visual representations to communicate quantitative data sets. Depending on the data, these visualizations display critical information and insights through the line and bar graphs, pie charts, scatter plots, heat maps, area maps, and much more. Data visualizations can be static or interactive. People have been using static data visualizations like graphs and charts for centuries. However, where things get interesting is with interactive data visualization. Interactive visualizations enable people to dive deeper into the fine details, by using our computers and mobile devices to interactively change what data is shown and how it’s processed. A prime example of an interactive visualization would be CNN’s Magic Wall, a custom solution delivered by InterKnowlogy. 

Data visualization can be likened to storytelling. Essentially, the visualizations created to represent the rows and rows of datasets collected by businesses tell a story about that data. Because visual representations are more straightforward to comprehend than reading data off of a spreadsheet, data visualization ultimately helps present information to clients, decision-makers, and investors in a way they can understand. This makes presentations, for example, a lot more understandable and engaging for people with little knowledge of the inner workings of your business. 

Why Data Visualization?

Accurate data is at the core of any good business decision. But to use that data, it’s essential to understand what it is telling you. When done correctly, data visualization does precisely this, making it a necessary resource for crucial business decision-makers. A significant benefit of data visualization is that it can immediately identify any abnormalities, inconsistencies, or changes in the data. The secondary benefit is that visualizations often remove a layer of noise surrounding the data by only highlighting the information that is useful to the person or people using it.

A simple way to determine whether a data visualization was done correctly is to observe if more questions are being asked about the information displayed instead of how or what is displayed. For data visualizations to be compelling, it is crucial to utilize the visualizations that best suit your datasets and the story you are trying to tell. While there are numerous off-the-shelf platforms available on the market to help you do this, there are limitations to what you can do with them – partnering with a dedicated data visualization firm like InterKnowlogy helps ensure your solution is customized to your data sets. Our solutions are entirely custom, enabling you to avoid the lack of flexibility and customizations found on off-the-shelf solutions. When creating data visualizations, it is essential to remember that no one business is alike. To tell your story correctly, your data visualization must meet those specific needs.  

Data Visualization Use Cases

So, what can data visualization be used for? What types of insights will you be able to gain from a custom data visualization? Below we highlight some of the most common use cases for data visualization and discuss the types of insights you’ll be able to gather in each instance.

Identifying Changes Over Time

This is one of the most basic and expected data visualization uses, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. All businesses need to be able to analyze their data to track trends over time. This can range from tracking revenue month to month, tracking the number of new hires to show business growth; the list is infinite. Most data has an element of time involved, so it’s no surprise that identifying changes over time is one of the most common uses for data visualization. 

Determining Frequency

Determining frequency is another everyday use for data visualization as it also applies to data that involves time. Using data visualization to help you choose frequency will help you quickly identify how often relevant events occur over time, making any critical decision surrounding these events much more effortless. 

Identifying Correlations

It is essential to be aware of the relationships that exist in your data. Did event A cause result B? However, it can sometimes be complicated to determine the relationship between two variables without a visualization. Having the ability to identify correlations quickly is a unique way to use data visualization.

Examining a Network

This use case applies to marketing professionals. A prime example of using data visualization to examine a “network” can be seen in market research. Marketing professionals need to know which audiences to target with their messaging. They use data visualizations to analyze the entire market they target to identify audience clusters, bridges between the groups, influencers within clusters, and outliers.

Analyzing Value and Risk

Determining complex metrics such as value and risk requires many different variables to be factored in, making it almost impossible to see accurately with a plain spreadsheet. Data visualization can be as simple as color-coding a formula to show which opportunities are valuable and risky.

Why Data Visualization is Essential for Every Industry

You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry that wouldn’t benefit from the use of data visualization technology. Science, tech, engineering, and mathematics industries are prominent examples of industries that benefit from understanding data. Still, government, finance, healthcare, marketing, consumer goods, service industries, and education industries also have numerous practical, real-life data visualization applications.

For example, we’ve seen businesses within the travel industry adopt data visualization to identify high demand destinations, insurance providers use it to determine high-risk areas and customers, and most recently, we’ve seen an uptick in healthcare providers using data visualizations to predict possible outbreaks to identify where resources should be allocated based on emerging trends. Our data visualizations have been used to help healthcare companies identify hotspots for COVID-19 and assist a government entity with vaccination progress and success tracking. 

Ultimately, our society is driven by data, and displaying data points visually conveys the messages we want that data to tell in a more understandable manner. It is increasingly valuable for decision-makers to use data to make decisions and use visuals to tell stories of when data informs the who, what, when, where, and how. 

Final Takeaways

Effective data visualization is the crucial final step of data analysis. Without it, essential insights and messages can be lost. InterKnowlogy understands the vital role data visualization plays in a business’s success and its role in powering mission-critical decision-making. For over two decades, InterKnowlogy has helped enterprise organizations extract meaning from big data, identify trends, and make better decisions.

If your organization is ready to get the most out of its data, we would be happy to chat in more detail about how we can create your custom data visualization solution. Contact us at curious@interknowlogy.com.

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