What is data visualization?

Data visualization refers to the techniques involved in graphically representing data, using visual elements like charts and graphs. It helps you to spot trends, patterns, and outliers, for quick insights and to make better decisions. It is increasingly important in today's world to understand the overwhelming volume of data being generated by businesses every single day.

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Why is data visualization important?

Good data visualization removes noise from data, highlights useful information, and tells a story. Edward R. Tufte, a pioneer in data visualization says, "Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time, with the least ink in the smallest space."

Data visualization software for businesses

In this era of big data, businesses need versatile data visualization tools that would solve all their visualization needs. The effectiveness of any data visualization tool lies in the richness of data visualization capabilities that it offers. A data visualization tool which offers this excellence will become a vital component of any business and its processes.

What are the broad goals of data visualization?

In a business environment, the speed at which decisions are made is key. It shouldn't take too long to find answers for known questions and indicators. Yet, while dealing with unknown scenarios, there should be sufficient scope to explore the available data in less time-consuming ways.

Hence, for any data visualization software, the two major goals are:

Explanation: Visuals that provide users with relevant information for standard, day-to-day needs (e.g., volume of sales in a day across regions)

Exploration: Offering a multi-dimensional view of a data-set for users to explore, ask questions as they reflect, and uncover insights along the way (e.g., performance of a business measured by different parameters over a given time period)

Components of data visualization

Human minds process visuals at an incredibly high speed, and the same also applies to data visualizations. The reason is that it takes less than half a second for the eye and the brain to grasp what is called the pre-attentive visual properties of an image—the color, form, spatial positioning and movement that makes up a data visualization.

A wide range of visualizations can be created with these building components. They include:

  • Time-series visualizations, such as line charts and area charts which depict how a variable, or multiple variables, change over time.
  • Ranking & comparison of different types of bar-charts, like horizontal/vertical, grouped, and stacked.
  • Part-to-whole views of data on a percentage basis using pie charts.
  • Correlation between two or three variables can be effectively understood using scatter plots and bubble charts.
  • Geo mapping visualizations like choropleth—a shaded or pattern-filled map—are useful when it's necessary to compare or segment a data set by geographic region.

Types of Data Visualizations

Charts

Be it discrete or continuous, charts can visualize any type of data for effective analysis and interpretation. There are a wide range of chart types like Area, Line, Bar, Stacked, Pie, Scatter, Combination, Funnel, Web etc. Each chart facilitates a wide range of user interaction options for further deeper and contextual analysis.

Some notable and widely used chart types include:

Line Chart

This can be used to visualize trends across any time-period. There are two variants of line chart: Smooth Line and Step chart.

Data visualization using line chart

Area Chart

Area charts shade the area beneath the lines and therefore help you more readily compare data magnitudes.

Data visualization using Area chart
Area chart visualization

Bar Chart

This displays data as individual bars whose height is proportional to the value plotted. Bar chart is useful to compare data classified in to discrete groups.

Bar chart data visualization
Bar chart visualization
Bar chart

Stacked Bar Chart

Do comparative analysis of parts-to-whole in a dataset using a stacked chart. It plots the value of each value to the total across categories.

Stacked bar chart visualization - Zoho Analytics

Pie Chart

This chart is more apt to depict percentage or proportional data. It can be useful to analyse and find out the contribution of parts to a whole set.

Pie chart data visualization
Data visualization using Pie chart

Ring Chart

Otherwise known as doughnut chart, this is also useful in presenting data as sum of its parts, in percentage values.

Data visualization using ring chart
Ring chart data visualization

Scatter Chart

Typical use of the scatter chart is to plot sporadic data with uneven intervals. It is used for the comparison between two numerical axes unlike the line chart, where one axis is never numerical.

Data visualization using scatter chart

Bubble Chart

They are useful to visualize data by highlighting the magnitude of data value with proportionate sizing. Also, bubble chart can be interchangeably used with scatter plots too.

Bubble chart data visualization
Bubble chart visualization
Data visualization using bubble chart

Combination Chart

When you have mixed types of data series and you need to represent both simultaneously, pick any suitable combination chart. The possible chart types for combination include bar, line, area, bubble and scattered chart.

Combination chart visualization

Funnel Chart

This chart is used to represent the progressive flow or reduction of a business metric across phases.

Data visualization with funnel chart

Web Chart

Pick this chart to study the comparison of different data series. This helps to compare the values in a data series represented with data markers, relative to a centre point.

Data visualization using web chart

Heat Map

This two-dimensional grid chart is useful to display values with colors of varying intensities - that helps in easy visualization, categorisation and filtering of data.

Data visualization using heat maps

Geo Map

These charts are useful for visualizing geo spatial data through interactive visualizations within and across cities,states, countries and continents of the whole global landscape.

Data visualization in geo maps
Geo map data visualization
Geo map

Pivot Tables

Pivot Tables allow you to dynamically rearrange, group, summarize and tabulate large sets of data for easier analysis and consumption. A wide range of options are available to filter, sort and customize the table's appearance and presentation of the data.

Data visualization using pivot table

KPI Widgets

Widgets are a pretty useful feature to highlight key metrics in dashboards for easy comprehension. The metrics can be accompanied with comparison indicators for highlighting the trend. Notable types of KPI widgets include:

Chart type widgets

This enables you to highlight a data metric using chart visuals like Dial and Bullet.

Chart type widgets

Single number widgets

Use this to display single numeric values accompanied with comparison indicators

Single number widgets

Dashboards

Dashboards allow you to combine multiple reports and KPI widgets in a single page for a quick overview. The reports and widgets can be organized conveniently using flexible layouts. In addition to that, the dynamic filtering capability enables the viewing of any required and specific information.

E-commerce data visualization
Data visualization using smarted dashboards

Real-time business use cases

Faster decision-making in business can be better facilitated by precisely offering the context needed for stakeholders. Dashboards achieve this by collating data visualizations that measure and track essential KPIs. The effectiveness of a dashboard though, lies in offering the latest available data.

Choosing appropriate data visualizations for business can be made based on 1) the type of users, 2) the level of detail they're looking for, and 3) their frequency of usage. Data visualizations have their specific utilities in different disciplines and industries. Here are just a few examples:

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Sales

Visualizations help in evaluating the effectiveness of different channels in achieving the larger sales objectives by communicating data aggregated from multiple tools and sources. Learn more about sales data visualization.

Sales Data Visualization - Zoho Analytics
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Marketing

Track the impact of your marketing initiatives in terms of engagement and conversion-rates using insightful visualizations. They can also be easily shared across the stakeholders involved for their up-to-date awareness. Learn more about marketing data visualization.

Marketing Data Visualization - Zoho Analytics
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Finance

The enumeration and presentation of in-depth financial data enables better tracking and forecasting of organizational performance, and readiness to withstand uncertainties. It also saves a substantial amount of data preparation time that could be better utilized for other high-value activities. Learn more about financial data visualization.

Financial Data Visualization - Zoho Analytics

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