The last few years have been particularly exciting for data visualizations. We’ve witnessed a boom in the popularity of infographics and in tools to help create everyday visualizations for practical purposes. With all these exciting developments it’s difficult not to wonder what the future of this field will look like.
Industry-renowned data visualization expert, Edward Tufte once said “The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; the paper is static, flat. How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?” Tutfe brings up a valid point. In most cases there is so much data out there that it ends up being extremely difficult to effectively visualize it all. According to a Forrester report, sadly more often than not “traditional reports using tabs, rows and columns do not paint the whole picture or, even worse, lead an analyst to a wrong conclusion.”
There’s a growing problem that businesses are facing. As businesses strive to collect more data, applying all of itand making sense out of it is a real problem. Firms are realizing the importance of visualization tools because employees are unable to pick out important patterns in data without data visualization. Forrester points out that “numbers on a grid often does not convey the whole story – and in the worst case, it can even lead to a wrong conclusion.” Ever tried to cram a bunch of data on a single screen in the hopes that it will be easier to read? You can only fit so much. Visualizations help cure that problem. How about data overload? You know, rows and rows of excel columns; it can get pretty daunting and quite frankly difficult to analyze. “Fitting in and analyzing hundreds of thousands of columns of attributes is an enormous challenge.”
We’re seeing the development of new data visualization techniques, what Forrester is referring to as Advanced Data Visualization (ADV). What’s the big difference? Well many corporations traditionally use “business graphics” such as bar, pie and line charts. We’ve now seen a shift from these traditional business graphics to more dynamic interactive graphics, such as real-time dashboards and charts that update automatically to reflect changes in the data. According to Forrester, now with ADV “potential exists for nontraditional and more visually rich approaches, especially in regard to more complex (i.e. thousands of dimensions or attributes) or larger (i.e. billions or rows) data sets, to reveal insights not possible through conventional means.” So what does this mean? Forrester differentiates ADV from static graphs and charts on six capabilities:
- Dynamic data content
- Visual querying
- Multiple-dimension, linked visualization
- Animated visualization
- Business-actionable alerts
Like all new technology it is important to pay at least equal if not more attention to ADV best practices to make sure you can really get the most out of it.
Curious and want to learn more about ADV vendors? Check out this detailed evaluation of the top 15 ADV vendors out there.