The Mechanisms of Data Presentation Tools

Introduction

What is Data Presentation? One of the most burning topics across the business sectors worldwide these days is data and its manipulation for enhanced business operations. Data visualization is one of many ways this purpose can be achieved, and data presentation tools come in handy while doing so.

Data visualization is the graphical display of abstract information for two purposes. The first is sense-making that is also called data analysis and the second is communication. Important stories live in our data and data visualization is a powerful means to discover and understand these stories, and then to present them to others. The information is abstract in that it describes things that are not physical. Statistical information is abstract. Whether it concerns sales, incidences of disease, athletic performance, or anything else, even though it doesn’t pertain to the physical world, we can still display it visually. But to do this we must find a way to give form to that which has none. This translation of the abstract into physical attributes of vision (length, position, size, shape, and color, to name a few) can only succeed if we understand a bit about visual perception and cognition. In other words, to visualize data effectively, we must follow design principles that are derived from an understanding of human perception.

Visualizing Data

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Often more only when the story is best told graphically rather than verbally and the picture is well designed. You could stare at a table of numbers all day and never see what would be immediately obvious when looking at a good picture of those same numbers.

What the numbers can not communicate when presented as text in a table, which our brains interpret through the use of verbal processing, becomes visible and understandable when communicated visually. This is the power of ‘data presentation’ within ‘data visualization’.

Although data visualization usually features relationships between quantitative values. It can also display relationships that are not quantitative in nature. For instance, the connections between people on a social networking site such as Facebook or between suspected terrorists can be displayed using a node and link visualization.

Usefulness of Data Presentation

Data presentation tools may be successful to a degree that they encode information in a manner that our eyes can discern and our brains can understand. Getting this right is much more a science than an art, which we can only achieve by studying human perception. The goal is to translate abstract information into visual representations that can be easily, efficiently, accurately, and meaningfully decoded.

Core properties of an effective Data Representation Tool are that it must:

  • Represent the quantities accurately
  • Make it easy to compare the quantities
  • Clearly denote how people should use the information

data presentation

A basic rule for assessment of a Data Representation Tool is that we should always judge its merits by the degree to which we can easily, efficiently, accurately, and meaningfully perceive the story that the information has to tell. To do this, we must understand the perceptual strengths and weakness of various graphical means for displaying particular data.

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