Data Reporting Best Practices
Data in itself is just a compilation of numbers. Fortunately, with today’s business intelligence (BI) tools, data publishing is more intuitive than ever. Data visualization enables all those numbers to come together to form a statistical analysis that is reader-friendly right from the first glance. However, if you don’t happen to use a data visualization tool (yet), for offline publishing, you might want to use some data publishing templates for a similar result. Not the same, but still useful.
Top Practices for Data Reporting
Publishers need to think about how to best represent the data in a manner that is easy to understand. You must also take the demographic into consideration. If publishing the data for consumer viewing, then the report has to be free of industry jargon. If publishing for industry insiders, on the other hand, then it may require specific metrics and predictive analytics.
- Optimize for the Web
Will your report be publicly made available on the Web? If so, be sure the report is keyword-optimized and contains the right meta tags. This holds true whether the published material appears on a web page, as a PDF, or as a PowerPoint Presentation.
To optimize for the search algorithms, the report has to go beyond numbers and graphs. Include text with longtail keywords. Add these in the title, subtitle, and throughout the text. If you share a link to the report through your blogs, YouTube video, or article directory, be sure to optimize those pages as well.
- Share Your Dashboards
Consumers like transparency, so why not show them the data that is normally only intended for company eyes? Show them the data exactly the way you view it daily. Publish a picture or video of your dashboard in real time.
The easiest way to do this is to simply take a screenshot on your computer, though this doesn’t produce the best quality. For best results, use a free software like Jing, which allows you to take screenshots in its entirety or a zoomed in portion. Your BI tool may offer advanced screenshot and editing features as well. For a more advanced and paid tool, use a service like Visualr.
- Include Infographics
Include infographics if publishing data for a public audience. The colorful animation makes for a more informal yet memorable visuals. They also allow viewers to digest various statistical data all at once.
People love infographics, so much so that their publication has increased by 9,900% since 2007. Why are infographics so effective? It has to do with the brightly colored animation. It takes 150 milliseconds for a symbol to be processed by the brain and 250 milliseconds to attach a meaning to it. Research also reveals that colorful visuals increase the viewers’ willingness to read the content by 80%.
All the above information, by the way, are acquired from… an infographic!
An even more potent visual is an interactive infographic. This is an infographic with clickable icons, mouse-overs, and panning and zooming capabilities. This allows viewers to gain more insight about specific data sets.
- Know When to Use Charts and Graphs
Most BI tools contain data visualization features that turn data into readable charts or graphs of your choosing. While a valuable visual tool, charts are not always user-friendly for the average layman. Stick to a simple bar or pie chart. Other types like scatterplot graphs and candlestick charts are a bit trickier for the mind to wrap around.
Also consider replacing charts entirely with associated images. This goes back to the power of infographics. Instead of a graph, you may consider using pictures along with relevant figures and percentages. Look at this comparison between a bar chart and infographic. Which is more memorable?
Data is meant to be shared in most instances. You have multiple outlets for publishing your data. Do so in a way that makes the content readable and engaging for the intended audience.