Data visualization involves the presentation of data in a graphical format with the goal of communicating complex information more clearly and efficiently to audiences. Effective visualizations make complex data more accessible, understandable, and usable. And sometimes even fun to look at! I like visualizing data because like many others, Im a visual learner.
If you consider that 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual, and that the brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text, then you start to understand why visualizing complex data is beneficial in both research and evaluation. Thats exactly why I LOVE dashboards.
Whats a dashboard? A dashboard is a data visualization tool that displays the status of metrics and key performance indicators for programs or organizations. In dashboards, tables, graphs, and charts are created and put together to form a system that allows viewers to quickly interpret data. The dashboards we create help our clients make fast and accurate conclusions about their programs performance, which makes informed decision-making and goal setting easier.
Static vs. Interactive Dashboards Dashboards can be either static or interactive. Static dashboards show data from a specific time-point and dont change. However, interactive dashboards are more dynamic. They allow users to engage with the data. Most interactive dashboards have multiple data levels; users can review several performance measures and drill-down on the numbers that interest them. This is what makes them much more fun than the static dashboards.
Tools At CRC, we create dashboards using Microsoft Excel, Tableau, and Quadrigram. Excel dashboards are great because they are a low-cost option for creating dashboards that dont need to be accessed online. They are easy to create and can be a great tool for smaller organizations with limited resources who want to keep track of how their programs are doing. Below is an example of an interactive Excel dashboard we created for one of our clients.
For online dashboards, we use Tableau or Quadrigram. Users can create free visualizations, including dashboards, in Tableau through Tableau Public and in Quadrigram through Quadrigram free accounts. If you choose to create free visualizations using any of these tools, your data will be accessible to anyone with a link. If you want to keep your data private, you have to get paid subscriptions. Below is an excerpt from a dashboard we built in Tableau for one of our clients. (Coming soon on this blog, my colleague Mandi will share the process she used to build this dashboard.)
Want to learn more? CRC is presenting an interactive dashboard skill-building session at Eval17, the American Evaluation Conference, later this week!
Session name: Everyone Deserves Beautiful Data: Affordable and User-Friendly Tools to Collect and Visualize Data Session number: 1241 Date and Time: Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 8:00 am
See you there soon and dont forget to bring your laptop to play along!