Tired of showcasing the same old boring tables to your management? A spice of colors and layout brings life to data representation. If you need to understand million rows of data and you are short on time. The data might be coming from different sources and you may need to compile it to get a holistic view to make a decision on it. In order to make the meaning of the information effectively, Data Visualization is an important answer.Data Visualization is an art for visual communication which enhances the expression of data in to one collective graphic for anyone to digest and action upon.
The best of the data visualizations explain something complex in a digestible format and expose something underlying which cannot be visible to the naked eye. Understanding those patterns and observing those trends to make powerful decisions is one of the important functions on choosing the right visualization. As Big data is accepted across different industries and more companies deal with data explosions across various digital networks, the importance of visualizing the complex datasets will become all the more important.
You need to adopt the language of visual communication and you need to learn it fast. Here, we list down some of the important data visualization tools for you to get started capturing some of the most popular and some unknown tools with which you can get started on the various digital data aspects which your team might possess.
Online Data Visualization Tools:
Infogram is one of the first data visualization tools i used and has been my favorite ever since. With many options in the Free Model, Infogram provides an easy way to visualize data with different options such as Pictorial, WordCloud and TreeMaps along with inbuilt templates for creating Infographics. The excel type spreadsheet interface is familiar and easy to input data and get started with Infogram in a few clicks
Setup as a community platform for data visualization, it allows you to create and share visualizations on the platforms among an active community. In case you have an urgent requirement for visualization/infographics, you can count on Visual.ly’s community to deliver on time.
Easel.ly is on the lines of Infogram and starts of with customisable Infographics templates. It allows you extra options with shapes and lets you upload your own images to add context to visualizations.
Piktochart is an Infographic creator tool for non-designers making it super easy with their drag and drop interface. You can choose from over 400 templates and icons readily available to impress your client on your next social media summary report.
Venngage gives you the ability of charting data from various formats with the ability to publish your infographics online. It is much like Infogram but offers a cleaner interface in comparison in some of the tools discussed above. You can get a lot of basic charts and icon sets for a free account which can be a good start if you are looking for basic visualizations. However, Venngage also has a set of tools (Maps,Pictograms and Icons) for a premium fee.
Dipity is a way to create digital timeline with a mission to organize the web’s content by time. You can use Dipity to showcase your brand’s history in a timeline format or can be a great trick to increase engagement on your website and make it more interactive. Here’s a sample interactive timeline on Internet Memes from Dipity:
This free Windows app lets you track Twitter hashtags and keywords to let you monitor your social media conversations along with sentiment analysis.
Visualize Free gives you the ability to draft a new visualization with their existing datasets after registration. You can also upload your own dataset to get started or view the existing graphics to get an idea on how you can represent your data with the available examples. Some of the examples include Histogram, Bullet Graph, Maps & Multi-chart etc.
Many Eyes is similar to Visualize Free but is built in a robust fashion (It is a product of IBM) and allows you to create visualizations from scratch with publicly available datasets or uploading your own. This is a great free tool with many charting options along with the ability to create wordcloud and TreeMaps based on your dataset uploaded in CSV
You can view the existing visualizations for ideas here
JoliCharts makes it easier for you to embed charts and graphs in your web applications managing different sources of data. JoliCharts enables big data use with capability of exporting dashboards in to known formats of excel and PDF’s. It also has REST based API capability for compatibility with any application and a cloud based interface. There is a free plan for you to explore and here is an example you can view to get an idea
IBM has been fiddling with data visualization tools with ManyEyes, but with Watson Analytics it aims to bring natural language processing to the general level of understanding. Watson Analytics aims to find relationships within your dataset so that you don’t scratch your brains over it. So knowledge of statistics is not necessary for this (unlike ‘R’) to determine which patterns are important and which ones are plain noise.
Online Libraries for Data Visualization:
Want some examples on what you can do? Preview these examples
Need some charting services for your website? iChart has interactive elements and also the ability to pull in data from Google Docs. Customization options are a plenty to match the design scheme of your website.
Flare has a great set of interactive data visualizations for the web which run on Flash Player. The toolkit supports visual encoding along with data management and animations.
Need some cool examples for TreeMaps,Stacks,Timeline and many more? View them here
Exhibit lets you easily create web pages with advanced text search and filtering functionalities, with interactive maps, timelines, and other visualizations. It is open source and can be utilized by anyone to create variety of charts with ease.
Modest Maps is an extensible library for designers with customizable maps with additional functionalities. Some of the examples can be viewed here
Some more libraries that can be utilized for the web are
Cross-filter gives you the capability to restrict the input range based on which the other dependant charts will react. This can be really important for analyzing or looking at a subset of data.
You can look at the Airline Performance example on their website to see how this interactive experience in cross-linking of charts can help you.
Perhaps the most famous library online is provided by Google and is a comprehensive gallery for you to get started. There are different elements available with Google library providing an addition of interactive elements to the standard set. Some charts inclusive of the other standard formats include Intensity Map, Motion Chart, Sparklines, Timelines, WordTress, Sankey Diagrams etc
Datawrapper can be your solution for an easy way to create and embed web charts on your website or blog. It can be as simple as adding your data with CSV and choosing your type of layout and clicking on ‘Publish’. The Free option lets you test out the different types of layouts manually whereas you can unlock many more features with their different layered pricing for individuals as well as organizations.
Desktop Visualization Tools:
Excel can be more than your daily spreadsheet tracking tool. Microsoft Excel can handle moderate amounts of data and can be your hands on guide to data visualization. With options like PowerPivot able to handle millions of rows and Power BI, dashboarding has become easier in Excel than the previous versions with interactive reports and visualizations with just a few clicks.
Want some inspiration? Go to Chandoo’s blog for some awesome examples of Excel Dashboards
Gephi comes in to picture when you are trying to map social relationships (Ontology Mapping) and how two entities (or nodes) are closely related to each other. Gephi is a desktop application that comes in handy for mapping out relationships and can handle large amounts of data. The use of this software is niche and requires some training to get started with but comes in handy if you do require that kind of analysis. Key to detect ‘Centrality’ to detect how well a node is connected to others with respect to closeness and betweeness
- Tableau Desktop:
Tableau Desktop is a paid visualization tool which is specifically designed for visualization with Big Data and has the ability to create on the go dashboards in minutes (literally). For beginners, you can get started with their 14 day Free trial with tableau Desktop and play around with many great options they provide. It does take some time for you to figure out the different needs with which you can use Tableau from the data arrangement to data visualization. You can also publish your own Tableau Dashboards on Tableau public which would be available for everyone to see on the web (not recommended if it is client data). Tableau has got paid options with the ability to connect to all the major cloud storage options along with a dedicated server if your client has data integrity issues.
You can view the Tableau Public Visualizations here
Crave Interactive Maps for visualizations? InstantAtlas is a desktop application which extracts data from your Excel and helps visualize geographical data for a great information to the end users.
R is a statistical tool that is used to handle huge amounts of data and has a fair bit of visualization capabilities as well. It does take a bit for you to get used to the application, however the R Community and library is a pretty helpful place to get started. If you do want to get started with statistical analysis and advanced techniques with data, R is one of the tools you should focus on
Designing and strategizing are key components of data visualization. Choosing the wrong frame for the right data type might become more confusion to the end user that actually deciphering it. Your design is your translation and one of the most important link between you and your end user who will view and take insights from it.
How do you view the importance of data visualization? Which type of visualization is your favorite?
Do let us know in the comments below