Google Talks Data Visualization at ClickZ Live Chicago

It was standing room only in the Data-Driven Marketing track as Google Analytics (GA) Advocate Adam Singer took the podium on day one of ClickZ Live Chicago. In his session, “Using Data to Communicate Your Story,” Singer brought the common sense approach to helping marketers convey messages from their data analysis.

The theme of his presentation was represented in his first sentence: “Always present data as graphically as possible, not as columns of numbers.” Everyone has data, Singer said, adding that data is part of the story you’re trying to tell.

Through a series of examples, Singer gave a plethora of tips for helping people to visualize data.

  • Far too often, data analysts tend to make boring representations of data. Creators are too close to the data they’re trying to represent. Take the time to step back and visualize the message you’re trying to say and take the effort to help make your report more visual.
  • Never, ever try to spin the numbers in your data. Skewing data can lead to bad visualization. “Manipulating data is evil,” said Singer.
  • Great design helps. Icons and data are very cool, but could get overwhelming. Don’t overdo it. Your audience won’t really appreciate it in the long run.
  • When you create a chart, don’t label every single data point as they are plotted on the chart. It gets crowded very quickly. Instead, try labeling the percentage difference. It’s much easier to visualize.
  • Use pie charts to show comparative changes. Use line graphs to compare trends over time.
  • Don’t limit yourself to charts and graphs. Think about real-world visuals. Singer referenced a blog post where he has an image of sugar-filled bags that represent the amount of sugar in various drinks.

Obviously, being a Google Analytics Advocate, Singer also included ways of helping to visualize GA data. Start by exporting your data, he said. This can be done by an API, apps, or gallery widgets. Some of these tools allow you to pull data directly out without any programming knowledge. Singer added that a user can export Google Analytics data and overlay other data to help visualization.

The key takeaways:

  1. Keep your charts and graphs simple
  2. Make sure to tell the user what to take away
  3. Call out your percentage change to prove your point
  4. Don’t spin data ever
  5. Be creative and have fun

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