Data visualization is not new, but by using some fresh ideas you can ride the trends to success when building these tools.

What Makes A Good Tool?

Economy of design
Clutter can be a real burden, especially when trying to convey information visually. Data visualization becomes less effective when elements don’t aid in interpretation or carry information. The data should be presented in a way that is understandable, free of clutter. A clean application interface and clean visualizations are not only appealing to the eye, but are also easier to use because of their simplicity.

A story of data
Humans love stories. Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, author of Storytelling with Data, says, “Telling a story with data is a way of making it meaningful, helping it to both resonate and stick with an audience.” By employing this tactic, viewers can make more sense of the data by interpreting a narrative. Storytelling with data visualizations can also help drive a call to action. The task is not just to make the data understandable, but also for it to have a usable takeaway.

What Do Users Want?

Make it like magic
Any developer has probably heard a user request that an application “just work” when they want it to. Although there’s more to a good piece of software than it just working, the meaning behind this request is easy to understand. Modern users want magic from their data visualization tools like they do with any other application, and the trend is to hide the back-end labor and even the minutiae of the data. They simply want to point the tool at the data and let it figure out the rest.

Mobile accessibility
Access to data has always been a priority of those utilizing it. Users are now craving access to data visualizations outside of the boardroom and office, and mobile data visualization is becoming the sought-after trend. The main challenge this imposes is representing the data in a way that is suitable for a small screen. Typical data visualizations are made with a large space in mind, but focusing on reducing graphs and charts to barebones and thinking about touchscreen capabilities can lead to more successful mobile implementations.

Real-time data
Timeliness in decision making matters, and the ability to gain insights quickly from data visualizations can depend on real-time data. Evaluating data on the fly without planning and developing for long periods gives decision makers an added advantage. This is becoming less of a dream of the users of big data, and more of an expectation with modern data visualization tools.

A Craftsman is Only as Good as Their Tools

It is claimed by some developers that if you can imagine a data visualization, you can do it with the Data-Driven Documents library. This may not be far from the truth, as D3.js allows you to manipulate any part of the DOM and works seamlessly with any other web technology.

Another tool that is heralded by developers is Chart.js, a small open source JavaScript library. The small size is attractive, as is the ease of use. While there are only six types of charts supported -- line, bar, radar, polar, pie, and doughnut -- the library suffices for smaller, quick projects.


Sarah Baker

Brian Russel Davis

Brian is a Full Stack Dev/Engineering professional with nearly 17 years of experience developing web media for global brands, and executing outside of the box thinking.