Data-driven Storytelling: Top Tips For Making the Most Out of Your Story

How to Get More Bang for Your Data Visualization Buck

You may remember in our last post that we talked about the importance of telling your story through data visualization. Data-driven storytelling is a way for people (and companies) to effectively communicate data insights, using a combination of data, visuals and narrative. The data-driven visual helps to tell a story in a way that words or pictures alone simply cannot achieve.

However, storytelling is not an inherent skill-it’s more of a science….and we’ve kind of always wanted to be scientists (thanks to Mrs. Miller’s third grade volcano project).  There are many different components that go into data-driven storytelling, including context, audience, choosing the right data and visuals, and much more. It’s also really important to leverage the power of visual storytelling to connect with your audience and provide them a message that resonates. Remember: people remember 80% of what they see, but only 20% of what they read, so if you’re making a visual, make it good. Did you remember that? Because it wasn’t a visual, so we won’t blame you if you didn’t.

Caveman Sitting Outdoors Using Stone Tablet with Touchscreen
We’re rich! (data-rich visuals, that is)

Here’s a few tips to help you make the most out of your story.

1.The Five-Second Rule

This rule doesn’t only apply to the time you need to pick food up off the floor before you can eat it. According to research, people’s attentions spans are shrinking every year, down from 12 to 8 seconds, in the last 15 years. If you can’t grab someone’s attention within the first few seconds, you’re pretty likely to lose them all together. That’s also why it’s important to create a clear visualization, so people know where to look and what they are looking at.

Caveman Sitting Outdoors Using Stone Tablet with Touchscreen
It can be 6 seconds only if it’s your favorite flavor of ice cream

2. Data Viz Should Complement Your Narrative

If your data visualization is any good, it should be able to tell a story all on its own. Let’s say it’s taken out of context or used in a different site, your reader should still be able to understand the story that the visualization is trying to tell. This means it should be clear, simple, and easy to grasp. As storytellers, we’re always tempted to add in different angles, gizmos and gadgets into our content, but it’s important to start with something simple, and layer on the data from there.

Caveman Sitting Outdoors Using Stone Tablet with Touchscreen
Hi, I’m Bob…that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it

3. Simple Over Sexy (Aka Smack Them in the Face With Your Data)

As noted above, if a visual is too complicated, it can turn your audience off. People are using enormous amounts of brain power on big, important (and small, unimportant) tasks every day, so you’ve got to make it easy for them to grasp the point. Take out anything that’s truly unnecessary, and keep your visual simple. Just because you have the capability of making something complicated, doesn’t mean you should. Interaction with your data viz should be easy and intuitive….like working with DEEP!

Caveman Sitting Outdoors Using Stone Tablet with Touchscreen
Easy does it

4. It’s Not the Size of the Boat, It’s the Color of the Ocean

Now that you know to keep your data viz simple, easy to understand, contextual and attention-getting, now’s the fun part….color! But you want to be sure that your visualization is not only colorful, but uses color in order to be stunning and effective. Primary colors are good, but a bit blah. Be sure to put a little pep in your step by reading up on color theory. Different colors can cause different emotional responses, and if used correctly, you can align your visuals with the feeling you’re looking to elicit from your users.

Caveman Sitting Outdoors Using Stone Tablet with Touchscreen
Hahaha, look how small their visual data is

5. Don’t Be a Chatty Cathy-Avoid Using Too Many Words

It’s called “visualization” for a reason. If you’re using too much text to accompany your data viz, the “viz” part gets lost. Rather than worrying about words, focus on the concept and message you’d like to communicate to your users, use words sparingly, just to get your point across. Be sure to refine and trim down your copy as much as possible, and let your visuals do the talking.

Guuuuurl, you should have seen all the words on his data viz

Here at DEEP, we investigate the world of knowledge visualization, so stay up to date with us as we share our findings!

Share your Experience

If you have any data-driven storytelling tricks, tips or ideas of your own that you’d like to share, let us know in the comments section!


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