Ever thought about why people can watch as many as three movies in one day but they're barely able to manage three books in a week (or month…)?
It's simple. Most humans (40-65%) tend to learn things visually. In other words, they process information more quickly by seeing things. The other learning modalities are auditory (hearing, 25-30% of people) and kinesthetic (touching, 5-15% of people).
The answer goes way back to our biology. Humans are wired for visualization. We can easily make sense of shapes, patterns, and colors—and therefore graphs, charts, and infographics.
Which means that if you want to turn data into digestible, bite-sized chunks, you must make use of... yes, pictures. Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Data visualization can help you create better user experiences, and free or inexpensive tools are available to help you do so.
Here are three ways to use visualization for your website, blog, or reports to improve communication and gain traffic or boost understanding and performance.
Infographics compress complex ideas and present it to your viewers in a digestible format. If you want your readers to consume information quickly and clearly, use infographics.
Infographics present both data/text and graphics to help users make better sense of the information being presented.
(Here's a cool infographic about infographics. And here's one about Star Wars versus Star Trek, if you're into either of the two.)
The beauty of an infographic is not just in how it's designed but also in how it distributes information—how shareable it is, especially via social media.
True, an infographic can go terribly wrong, leaving your readers more confused than before they came looking for help. Here is such an example. It was apparently published in Newsweek with the caption "The majority believe Japan is an innovative country." Just by looking at the infographic, however, one wouldn't know what the various numbers mean.
How to create: Visme is a cool free tool for creating beautiful infographics. Prezi can also be used to create cool presentations.
Whether you want to share your knowledge, help your customers, publish a demo of your latest product, or increase traffic to your website, videos can help.
On average, an Internet user watches 186 videos per month, including news clips, entertainment, educational information, ads, etc.
Videos are more engaging than static images or photos, and you can easily use video in various marketing efforts—sharing customer testimonials, your expertise, poll requests, product demonstrations, etc.
Many companies still don't use video in their marketing and data-sharing activities. If you're one of them, start using videos now to stand out from your competition.
How to create: Start with free tools like Animoto and Masher.
3. Heat Maps
A heat map is an image constructed using colors in place of numbers to represent data. Different colors are measurements that correspond to various levels or intensity of what's being measured.
For example, a heat map can help you track where visitors click the most on your website. Such data is gold, because at a glance you know what's working and what's not, and therefore what to keep and what to change in order to optimize your website.
If you realize that visitors are clicking a lot less on your "Try for Free" button, you can experiment by changing the text, location, or the look of the button and then reconsider the results.
How to create: Some tools to experiment with are Crazy Egg, Click Heats, and Clicktale.
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Data visualization is here to stay. Users don't have the time or inclination to interpret complex tabular data any more. Supply them with visual alternatives, because your competitors are surely thinking about doing so.
Are you visualizing data for your business already? Which one of the above is your favorite ways to do so? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
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