8 data visualization tools you should know about
By: Emily Finlay
If you want your business to capitalize on your strengths and remedy your weaknesses, you first need to know what these factors are. For most businesses, this information is hidden within the data you collect on your companies operations.
Even when you have access to this information, unfortunately, the immense volume or complexity may keep you from understanding what it means.
Data visualization takes the streams of numbers you track and transforms them into simplified visuals, such as charts or graphs. Using these images, you can determine what is most relevant to your current needs. You can also present your data more effectively to your team, audience, and stakeholders.
Before you can utilize this resource, however, you need to find the right data visualization tools to unlock your insights.
What are data visualization tools?
Data visualization tools simplify data sets by turning raw numbers into easy-to-understand graphics. Creating a map or chart from numerous data points allows anyone to present and understand the information more easily.
What are the best data visualization tools?
To do so, you can use a variety of tools to build your visualizations. Below, we’ve covered some of the top data visualization tools that you can use to make your daily work even better.
Best for general data visualizations: Tableau
You can find Tableau on every list of data visualization tools. This software offers numerous maps, live dashboards, charts, and graphs, along with templates created by other users for inspiration. It also allows hundreds of different options for importing data, including spreadsheets, databases, and apps such as Salesforce, AWS, and more.
With Tableau, you can create in-depth visualizations customized to your exact needs. Strengthen dashboards with powerful analytics, including trend analyses and forecasts. Develop interactive maps with pre-programmed postal codes and custom geocodes.
Tableau is available as both a free option and an upgraded paid version. When using the public option, it’s important to note that all of your visualizations are publicly available to every other user. The paid version keeps your information private, but does require a fairly high monthly cost per user.
Best for embedded data visualization charts: Google Charts
If you have coding knowledge, Google Charts is a great option for visualizations that you want to embed on your website or app. Just import data directly from SQL databases such as Salesforce and Google Spreadsheets to start building your graphics.
Using the tool’s simple interactive dashboard, you can find the chart that best visualizes your data. Some of the options include maps, bar charts, gauges, tables, tree maps, line charts, and many more. You can then use CSS editing to customize and brand your charts.
Google Charts is completely free. That said, it doesn’t offer much support beyond a forum and tutorials, so it’s essential to have a background in coding for the best results.
Best for data visualization maps: Polymaps
Using Scalable Visual Graphics (SVG), the tool displays datasets over a variety of map options. Choose from styles including density maps and image overlays. From country-level to street view, you can select the exact location you need. CSS editing further personalizes your map to display the information you need.
Best for simple data visualizations: Datawrapper
When you need a quick graphic for an upcoming presentation or you simply want an easy, straightforward tool, Datawrapper is the right choice. Popular with news organizations, this tool has a limited number of visualization types for minimal complexity.
Add data by copying and pasting from spreadsheets or the web, uploading an XLS/CSV file, or linking to a URL. After choosing the chart, map, or table template you want to use, you can make small changes or add notes for increased clarity. Then, simply copy the embed code or export your file for sharing or continued use. Your data remains private unless you choose to publish it.
All of these features are available on the free plan. Datawrapper also offers a paid version that offers more customization and use options, though it demands an expensive monthly price that may not be affordable for all businesses.
Best for data visualization dashboards: Grafana
Dashboards are one of the most important tools for every organization, as well as every department within it. These resources track and analyze your data on a continuous basis, keeping you up to date on everything happening within the relevant areas of your business.
Using Grafana, you can import the raw data from your apps (including more than 60 data source plugins) and infrastructure into a customized dashboard. As an open source tool, you can use it to create the exact visualizations you need. Plus, if you aren’t sure about designing your own dashboard or don’t have the time, you can use one of the many templates developed by the large community of users.
Your dashboards will contain multiple panels that each show different datasets. This allows you to track multiple sources of information at the same time. You can also add annotations, filters, and customized alerts to stay on top of changes in your data. For further functionality, integrate a plugin from the hundreds of available options. Then, collaborate with others in the tool or share snapshots of the dashboards you’ve created.
Grafana is available through a limited free version and several paid monthly subscription options.
Best for data visualization graphs: Sigmajs
At its most basic, you can use the tool by adding your data and DOM container to create the graph. For low-level interactivity, you can also use custom functions to develop the functions you need. And, if you need a more complex graph, you can create or integrate plugins with the advanced features you’re looking for.
Sigmajs is an open source tool that is free to use. The website also offers tutorials, examples, a dedicated Wiki, and a limited number of plugins that are already available for use.
Best for high-end data visualizations: FusionCharts
When you want top-of-line capabilities and results and you’re prepared to pay for them, FusionCharts is the tool you need. One of the most popular data visualization tools on the market, this resource is used by many of the largest companies in the world.
FusionCharts offers over 100 types of interactive charts and more than 2,000 mapping options. It can also create big-data dashboards that visualize thousands of data points to the millisecond. Create your own themes to develop a consistent look across all of your visualizations, then use examples, industry-specific templates, and data stories to develop your ideal graphics. All you have to do is plug your data in to get started.
All of these features and capabilities (and more!) make this tool a great choice for in-depth, complex, and high-end data visualizations. For organizations able to pay the high price tag, this is a great option.
Best for centralized data visualizations: MindManager
When you’re trying to understand and apply your data, having a centralized dashboard for your information is crucial. MindManager offers this option through its variety of data visualization options.
Specifically, you can use this tool’s mind-mapping capabilities to gather, store, and visualize your organized information. Some of the ways MindManager can benefit your business include:
- Mapping your processes – Discover what works and what doesn’t by visualizing your standard procedures. As you view this data in context, you can understand it fully. Easily share this information with others, adding more data as you go.
- Centralize knowledge – Your data and the insights it provides affects everyone in your organization. MindManager’s graphics help you structure and store data while keeping it accessible to all of your employees. Keep your information up-to-date and available at all times.
- Action disparate information – While the tools in this guide create dynamic representations of connected information, most aren’t useful for understanding unconnected data points. This tool allows you to view and utilize all of your information from one location..
Simple visualizations, such as the ones you can create within spreadsheets, may be enough for some datasets. For more complex and beneficial graphics, however, you need tools that can provide the information you need and more. Using any of these tools or a combination of them gives you the knowledge and control necessary to lead your organization to success.