When presenting important information, a visual – such as a chart or graph – is worth a thousand lines of data. But communicating your message is not as simple as tossing in a pie chart. Visual representations of data must be carefully planned and crafted to present a clear and informative message.
Three tips to creating great graphs and cheer-worthy charts:
- Charts and Graphs Should Answer Questions.
All too often people look at the data as a whole and attempt to create a chart that represents all of the information. A better approach considers the audience for whom the chart is being created, and then determines what questions need answered.
- Choose the Right Chart – or Charts – For the Job
Bar charts and line charts show changes in data over time. Bar charts illustrate totals of data at various points, while line charts show relationships between points. Pie charts show data distribution within a whole. To demonstrate your company has increased profits over the last six months due to increased sales of particular products on your new website, you might need three charts: A line chart shows the steady increase in profits, a bar chart represents the increase in sales and a pie chart indicates which products are sold most often.
- Sometimes Chart Defaults Are Not Good Enough
Some default chart settings show too much or too little information. First, clear the clutter. Remove information that distracts from the question(s) you’re trying to answer. Second, make sure your message is clear. You may need to add visual elements to achieve this. In the example above, you might add a right-pointing arrow over the bar chart lines labeled “67% Increase in Web-Based Purchases.”