3 questions you must ask yourself before visualizing any data set

3 questions you must ask yourself before visualizing any data set

Here are three questions that I always ask myself before visualizing any data set: Who is your target audience? What is the objective of this visualization? What is the story behind the data?

As a data analyst, a significant chunk of my time is used to visualize data sets for different stakeholders. Data visualizations can take many forms. They can be a simple Google Sheets charts, some visualizations on a Python notebook, or a complex Tableau dashboard. Here are three questions that I always ask myself before visualizing any data set.

Who is your target audience?

This is undoubtedly the most important question to ask yourself. Are the stakeholders technical or non-technical audiences? What is their familiarity level with the data that you are about to visualize? Are they your peers or Executive-level managers? Are you visualizing data for a diverse group of audience or a specific team? Knowing your target audience well before thinking of visualizing data helps you achieve half of the success.

I often note down my audience profile by answering all of the questions above. I have different visualization approaches tailored to each audience type. For example, if my audience is a non-technical one who asked me to do some exploratory analyses, I’ll think of some Google Sheets charts instead of a Tableau dashboard. Doing that way, I can easily share with them the data set too. They can adjust the graphs or charts based on their needs. For example, they may realize later that they are only interested in last month’s data instead of the initial ask of 6-month data.

If I know that I am about to present some visualizations to a big and diverse group, I will pay more attention to adding more explanation into the visualization. For example, “daily active users” or “retention rate” may sound trivial at first. However, those metrics can have very different definitions across businesses or industries. I would add a short caption under my graphs or charts to explain how I calculated those metrics.

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