Improving Data Consumption using Visual Elements

What is the difference between a report and a dashboard? To me, it’s like Art VS Design. Art makes a room for interpretation from an individual or collectively while design follows rules and sends a message to the general public.

Like Art, reports don’t provide any interpretation. Some data in reports use plain text or tables and sometimes it has basic graphs and charts. It is usually time-bounded.

Unlike reports, the dashboard is more dynamic and interactive. It sends us summary insights and answers specific questions like design. It uses visual elements to tell a story. It uses colors, narrative, interactive graphs, and charts.

This data is from the Department of Health Report. This document is sent to the general public as a public awareness report.
This data is from the Department of Health Report. This document is sent to the general public as a public awareness report.

I tried to analyze and improve the existing data presentation of the Dengue report of the Philippines using google data studio.

A data table is one of the best ways to present detail and a summary of the report. It gives the viewer the freedom to sweep the numbers, scan them across the rows and columns. It also tried to compare the previous year's report, giving the viewer the sense of the severity of the dengue cases.

The downside of this is that it increases mental tension or mental processing of the viewer to interpret the data. We can reduce this by using visual elements. I also separated the data presentation of dengue cases and deaths to give them a better experience of interpreting the data.

Color saturation can give us visual cues and assist our eyes to direct our attention to the potential points of interest. In google studio, this element is called a heat map.

I added the ‘change’ column to show and compare the changes of dengue cases and deaths from 2018 to 2019. This column shows the absolute value of change in percentage form. There is also a summary bar graph at the top of the table: it interacts with our visual system, which is faster at processing information.

Dengue Cases VS Deaths

Another way to improve data consumption is using the stacked graph. It is a special kind of bar chart. It naturally shows the difference in comparing the two categorical data.

We can also add emphasis and de-emphasise other components so it will not be visually overwhelming.

What I did is a simple transformation of data presentation. The most important thing is how we tell everybody the message we are sending using appropriate visual elements. We tried to eliminate visual clutters by using pre-attentive attributes to draw people’s attention to where we want them to focus and crafting a compelling story. As the common saying goes, the message we are sending is as important as the way we send it.

Loves design, psychology, philosophy and marketing analytics