On my way to Montreal after an incredible week in San Francisco. I just attended Stephen Few’s first public class on data visualization and visual analysis. This is going to have an immediate impact on how I work. My clients will definitely noticed something: they will talk in terms of “Before Jacques went to San Francisco, and after he came back”.
Guys like Clint Ivy have been at it for a long time. I am newly converted, and I am for good.
So, you’ll ask me, what is this new cult you belong to now? Well, charts and graphs. And especially the discovery that I was doing them all wrong. Very wrong. Stephen rightly pointed out and showed us how the PC world, which is now 30 years old, slowly instilled a culture visual data representation that let users abuse of all the features vendors kept multiplying. We now accept and do stuff that does NOT communicate well, and have learned to live with them.
(2–week pause. Been crazily busy)
Since I started writing this post, Avinash Kaushik published a post exactly about the same topic (gosh, this is not the first time he involuntarily scoops me, which tells me I should be more diligent with my blogging!). See how well he explains the importance of taking the pain and time to present results in an immediate visually meaningful manner.
In our fight to make analytics an important part of the marketing culture, clearly communicating insights is definitely high on the list. And tables and graphs, which have been around for ages, are essential vehicles, at least they are in every presentation. It is worth to take the time making sure they communicate in an obvious manner; that whatever insight is presented jumps to the reader’s eye. I would say: if you need to comment a graph, you can redo it better.
While in San Francisco, I had the pleasure to meet for the first time and have dinner with Gary Angel. Among many things we discussed, we both agreed that many web analytics applications did a poor job in that area, which made frustrating that they would often put the graphs above the tables, forcing us to scroll down to get the results. Which says 1) they are not well located and 2) if they were done better, we wouldn’t think they are not well located!
You think it’s not that important? Well, just look at the hype surrounding Google Analytics v2; 90% of all the excitement was about the UI. Looks better… Makes it easier to understand… A lot of people say it’s a huge improvement over v1, although it is basically mainly the UI that’s got changed!
If you use any non-WA application to communicate results (and I suspect Excel is a major one), take the time to reconsider how you present them, and examine how you could improve their visual presentation. You will realize that you need to write much less to share insights in a powerful manner.
You could give me $1,000 per graph to redo, and I can guarantee you that it would be worth it in terms of insights, shared and agreed positions, and action decisions.
Over a year, you would reap so much more. Can you see it?