Accurate data can hold fascinating secrets. And being able to communicate these secrets in a way that others can understand is essential.
Enter data visualisation. Visual representations of data are important because of the way people process information. Charts, graphs and diagrams make large amounts of data much more accessible. They are certainly easier to comprehend than vast spreadsheets or reports.
What is data visualisation good for?
We’ve written before about visualising data to tell a story. This time, however, I wanted to explore how to visualise data in a way that brings finance into focus for customers. Why? Because visualising financial data is an effective way to convey complex concepts to a wider audience.
So let’s take a look at some of the best examples of financial data visualisation and understand how to visualise data in a way that’s accessible to all.
Visualise data to discover patterns
Emmanuelle Moureaux’s striking Forest of Numbers isn’t from the world of finance. However, it does highlight how visual representations of data make it easier to identify relationships and patterns in numbers.
Moureaux’s use of colours parallels the different categories we assign to data in our spreadsheets every day. It also creates a beautiful art installation.
Datasets can help us pinpoint existing and emerging trends. Only visualising the data, though, can bring out these trends in all their beauty – and for all to understand.
Leverage interactive data visualisation
Goldman Sachs’ Millennials Coming of Age infographic is slightly more prosaic than Moureaux’s visualisation. But it is no less effective at highlighting trends. And these are trends with far-reaching consequences, so it’s all the more important that readers can understand them easily.
The visualisation is clear, informative – and successful because it is interactive. The different sections of the infographic rely on multiple sets of complex data: far too much information for a static visualisation. Instead, the clickable nature of the visualisation allows readers to move back and forth and process information at their leisure.
Use comparisons to bring your data to life
Drawing comparisons in your data visualisation is incredibly powerful when done well. Why? Because juxtaposing one figure with another establishes context and helps people to understand what might otherwise be abstract numbers. Take The world debt chart below, which lets you easily compare and contrast the different percentages of debt per country.
Alternatively, you could opt for a more sophisticated data visualisation. This Sankey diagram from the Financial Times illustrates the percentage of exported plastic waste from G7 countries, and where it’s going. The width of the arrows is proportionate to the quantity of waste flow.
The two columns in the visualisation compare spending in the first half of 2017 with the first half of 2018. Notably, in the first half of 2017, China and Hong Kong bought 60 per cent of plastic waste from G7 countries. In comparison, the two countries bought less than ten per cent during the same period a year later.
Make the most of movement
Money changes hands every second. Assets are managed and transactions flit from one corner of the globe to the other. Raw statistics, though, don’t tend to reflect this financial ebb and flow.
So, when visualising your data, simply illustrating movement is a great opportunity to bring your numbers to life. Take this example from HSBC, which shows the money spent on imports and exports between China and California in 2013. The arrows are simple, effective – and central to the visualisation.
How to visualise data: Use video
As with interactive data visualisations, you can use video to communicate a lot of information in a digestible format.
Among other points, the video below illustrates the difference between the perceptions and reality of wealth inequality in America. The choice of video to visualise the necessary statistics makes it much more engaging and impactful than a static image.
Done well, visual representations of data are incredibly effective. However you choose to represent your information, though, and whichever visualisation tools you use, visual presentations of data rely on a solid foundation of accurate data.
Obtaining and validating data is the first hurdle. And while data collection can be a challenge, it is one that’s worth getting right.
There are many ways to collect data, and it’s important you choose one that’s right for your business. If you are looking to collect customer data in compliance with the GDPR, a data collection app is a useful tool. Secure and easy to use, Gather’s data capture app will help you gain a much deeper understanding of your prospects and customers.