Common Misconceptions Many Businesses Make When It Comes to Data Visualization


Data visualization takes complex topics and breaks them down into easy to understand visuals. There are many ways you can use an infographic or image to drive traffic to your site or convince website visitors to take the plunge and convert to customers. Unfortunately, it’s easy to mislead people without intending to, which can damage your trustworthiness.

Data visualization takes complex topics and breaks them down into easy to understand visuals. There are many ways you can use an infographic or image to drive traffic to your site or convince website visitors to take the plunge and convert to customers.


Unfortunately, it’s easy to mislead people without intending to, which can damage your trustworthiness.


What Are Some Common Mistakes When Visualizing Data?


Small elements in data visualization can make a significant impact. For example, people are 80% more likely to read graphics with added color. However, you can also present only the information that proves your point or leave things out that create misperceptions.


Even if you don’t do so intentionally, potential customers may feel you aren’t being upfront. They’ll lose trust in what you say and be less likely to buy from you. How can you avoid misconceptions in your data visualization? Here are the most common ones.


1. Leaving Out Data


One of the most common ways to create misconceptions with data visualization is by leaving out data that doesn’t support your claims. For example, perhaps two studies were done on a product. One shows customers had a certain result from using the product and the other study shows the results were lackluster.


Leaving out the reports and studies that aren’t as complimentary is a classic way of creating misinformation. It isn’t always intentional, so be careful you aren’t cherry picking your facts. A customer who does their own research will quickly see through any shady practices.


2. Rounding Figures Up


Another way companies sometimes create misconception is by rounding figures up. For example, if you found 56% of your customers are highly satisfied and you round the number to 60%, you’re not being fully transparent with your leads.


Such white lies misrepresent information and create an atmosphere of distrust between you and your audience.


3. Using Certain Colors

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ou can even create a misrepresentation with the color choices you go with. Perhaps you’re trying to show an increase in sales over time, but the data doesn’t quite match what you hoped the figures might be.


A red line or bar graph in red can make people think sales are red hot when they are more lackluster. It’s fine to use red, but don’t do so simply to mislead your users. Other people do things such as putting unflattering data in a gray or color that blends more closely with the background. The information they want the user to see pops and the other information fades away.


4. Truncating the Y-Axis


Another way to mislead is to compare apples to oranges instead of apples to apples. The Library Research Service explains how a truncated Y-axis is misleading. For instance, not starting at zero can make a graphic appear as though a company does better than expected.


They offer an example of how many books circulate each month at different libraries. By starting at 3,000 instead of zero, they make it appear they circulate far more books than their competitors.


5. Choosing Unrelated Dual Axis Charts


A dual axis chart is an excellent way to compare two like things. Unfortunately, some data visualizations take two unrelated aspects of a topic and attempt to compare them by showing how one goes down and the other up.


This is unfair, because you aren’t comparing the same things in the same way. Visually, it is a striking image of the differences but it really isn’t very accurate to what is actually happening.


Be Honest and Check Yourself


Do everything in your power to present visuals accurately. Double check your results and numbers, making sure they accurately reflect a true picture of what’s going on in your industry and your business.


It’s always smart to have someone look over your finished content and ensure it isn’t misleading. Your customers will come to trust you to be honest and forthright, and you’ll gain their loyalty and referrals.


Guest Post by Eleanor Hecks


Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pups, Bear and Lucy.

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