For week 36, we teamed up with Chloe Tseng and #VizForSocialGood in a collaboration with the United Nations SDG Action campaign to visualize survey results for the MyWorld survey looking at people’s perception on the successful (or not) achievement of sustainable development goals.
If you are interested in learning more about our collaboration, please check out our blog post about it as well as the webinar recording in which Chloe, Gayan (UN) and I discussed the project, its goals and the rewards for those who participate.
As with every weekly recap, here are some lessons coming out of the submissions this week. We spoke about these things during our Makeover Monday Viz Review on Wednesday and two things stood our very clearly this week.
LESSON 1: READ THE REFERENCE MATERIAL PROVIDED
Each week we provide not only a visualization as your makeover starting point but there is usually also an accompanying article, blog, video etc. that goes with it.
While Makeover Monday is a great opportunity to practice data visualization techniques and tricks as well as data story telling, it is also a chance to simulate your own ‘real life business scenarios’. And when specific requirements or guidelines are provided (especially for these collaborations which are a chance to showcase your work to a much wider audience), considering those requirements for your makeover is a good idea.
Some submissions made it very clear that the authors had not bothered to read any of the information provided (and there were a lot of resources given this week to make it easier and more engaging for everyone). That does admittedly get a bit frustrating, because we put effort into giving as much guidance as we can with the information and time available.
I recommend that you treat the Makeover Monday challenges like a request you would get at work (at least some of the time, just for good practice). Whether you consider us your ‘customers’ or your general audience in the dataviz community does not matter at this point. For these collaborations with VizForSocialGood and non-profit organisations it’s a good idea to consider the organisations your customers.
Then it comes down to producing something of value for that customer. Ask yourself
- What does the customer need?
- What do they want to know?
- Are there specific guidelines when it comes to style or tone of voice?
- How can I give them more than they asked for? Are there additional insights in the data you found which they may not be aware of?
- How do I communicate with my ‘customer’? Do I need to confirm any additional information before presenting my work?
These scenarios and the practice of them is a major reason why we provide the weekly live Viz Review webinars. Sure, part of it is down purely to the visual aspects of the submissions, but we always consider the audience when giving our feedback and the audience is your customer.
Please make sure you check out the materials provided.Look at the original viz and read a bit of background information before diving into your analysis.
You can make use of our feedback by simply including the hashtag #MMVizReview in your tweet and we’ll review your submission during our webinar.
Related to these points is Lesson number 2…
LESSON 2: DON’T JUST THROW DATA ON A PAGE
Strictly speaking you are visualizing data simply by putting one or several fields onto your view. You could stop there and call it a day. Please don’t. Don’t just stop at visualizing numbers. Tell a story and make it your goal to effectively communicate information.
We notice a few submissions every week which strongly suggest that the author simply dragged a few measures and dimensions on rows, columns and different marks cards, then built a dashboard by dragging sheets onto it and pressed ‘publish’.
That’s not going to help anyone. That doesn’t communicate information. That is just ticking a box and saying ‘I did Makeover Monday this week’ or ‘I practiced using Tableau/Power BI/Microstrategy/<insert tool of choice> this week’.
No you didn’t.
That kind of work is like going to a cafeteria and having the person behind the counter filling up a ladle with non-descript slobber and slapping it on your plate without any care and consideration.
Communicating information and telling a story with data is an art and takes a lot of practice. We’re not perfect and we’re always learning and we don’t expect anyone to get it right every time. With regular and consistent practice, however, you will get better very quickly. We’ve spoken previously (many times) about keeping it simple and have suggested to not try and answer every question you may think of but focusing on one aspect of the data and nailing it.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of spending hours working on our weekly Makeovers, so focusing on a subset of data or one key insight can help you contain the work required and make more time for thorough analysis and effective story telling.
When you build your story, each point should hang connect to the previous and the following one. This doesn’t have to mean using the story feature available in Tableau or using multiple views for the user to step through. It can be simply the flow of your analysis through your dashboard, whether it’s using a number of charts in a horizontal, vertical or Z-pattern on a single page or guiding your audience through text elements, lines and annotations as well as titles and subtitles.
Communicating information is about communication and that is very different from the display of information.
Make sure that your submission, whether it’s a single chart, a long-format infographic or a series of dashboards, effectively communicates the insights coming out of the data you visualized. Tell your audience what you want them to know and take away from it. Don’t shy away from using text in your vizzes. Most of the standout submissions do, because language is still a key part of how we communicate. Use your charts to make people go ‘Duh, that is so obvious, I totally get it now’.
When you do that you don’t just improve your story telling skills, but you’re also much more likely to be using Tableau or whatever visualization tool you choose, to much greater depth. There is so much more to it than just rendering a chart…
A great example for communicating data effectively comes from Sarah Bartlett who used story points as a way of building her story and providing a lot of information to the audience.
Like any good story, Sarah’s has a beginning, a middle and an end and flows logically. Using story points allows her to provide a lot of detail without cluttering up a single dashboard. Each viz is clean and in itself pretty simple. She connects the charts with text elements, lines, icons, annotations and titles to guide her audience through.
— Sarah Bartlett (@sarahlovesdata) September 6, 2017
Those are the two key lessons I want to share with you this week. Plenty of things can be said about color, images, etc. and we have done that many times in the past, so feel free to refer to previous recaps for that.
The above lessons go a bit deeper and I’ll leave it at that and move onto my favorites for this week…
What I like:
- The branding is spot on, making it look like something the UN SDG team created themselves, so it can be of immediate use to them
- Great mobile friendly design with icons and explanations on how to interact
- Filters chosen at the top are called out further below to remind the viewer what demographics the responses relate to
- Robert included a call to action at the bottom as well as a thorough description of why people’s votes on this subject are important
- Great footer listing data sources, logos and collaboration information
What I like:
- Klaus always (always!) includes a call to action. This sets his vizzes apart and is also really effective when it comes to communicating information because it forces the author to think about the flow of the overall viz to ensure the call to action has its place and will trigger something in the audience
- Great design and use of the UN SDG colors. Just like Robert’s viz, this dashboard by Klaus can easily be used by the SDG action campaign without any major changes, because he used the guidelines and structured and designed his viz accordingly.
- The quadrants in his scatter plot are such a good idea. Most people in a corporate environment are familiar with how to read quadrants and Klaus spells out exactly what each section shows. His audience being world leaders means he can assume a certain proficiency in interpreting this information, so it’s a really effective way of communicating his message
What I like:
- Mike delivered a dashboard as well as a mobile version of his Spanish viz, clearly considering the large Mexican audience that was represented in the survey respondents. Kudos to Mike for the effort of translating the data!
- The design is nice and clean, he incorporated the branding as well as using the colors of the Mexican flag to connect to his audience and encourage their interest in his viz
- Including a large button with a call to action for people to take the survey is a great way to not just drive engagement and interactivity, but to also build people’s interest in the results
- The tooltips are excellent and the interactivity is great, letting me choose a specific goal and seeing responses as well as demographics related to it
- Very effective use of bar charts. Nice and simple but with a lot of thought going into every detail.