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Let Your Data Tell a Story: Visualizations Using Microsoft Power BI

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

As businesses digitize their processing, monitoring, and decision-making, they rely on data visualization as fuel for modern operations. Companies use powerful data visualization provided by Microsoft Power BI to let their data do the storytelling.

But what makes good data storytelling? How does data visualization with Power BI work? Learn how your business can instantly transform by understanding and visualizing data thanks to Microsoft Power BI.

The Principles of Good Storytelling

Since the beginning of mankind, storytelling has been the basic form of communication. Whether orally or visually, humans have been storytelling for years to achieve better communication. Now, it’s your data’s turn to tell a story.

Here are some key principles for good storytelling:

● Short and Easy to Understand: Make sure data is easy to understand for even the most entry-level user.

● Inspiring Change: Your data should create meaning for your business and inspire change.

● Impactful: Your data tells a story to potential customers and investors, and creates a lasting impact

Elements of a Good Story

To impart clarity to your data story, here are the four critical elements:

1. Setting the Stage

It is critical for the audience to get some context on the data they’re viewing.

If the audience doesn't understand why we collect the data, it won't comprehend the purpose and objectives. As a result, the data becomes meaningless.

The key to setting the stage when storytelling with data is an excellent dashboard. Ensure that your dashboard abides by these thumb rules:

● Give clear titles and headings to your data and charts

● Ensure that you have short and effective page labels

● Highlight critical information and key metrics

● Use few colors to reduce distractions

● Organize the dashboard effectively and maintain good spacing

2. Targeting your Audience

You must know who your audience is and the information they are interested in. A potential customer won’t be interested in your monthly expenditure trends!

A great way to target different sets of audiences is to create separate pages for each type of audience. This allows your audience to view the data they’re interested in and can easily understand.

3. Planning your Story

Using storyboards is the most effective way to create a scene-by-scene plan for your data story. Your board can display the UI design, target audience, charts, color theme, and other elements you want in the story.

Make sure that you focus on the important stories and create multiple pages. This makes the data more organized and eliminates distractions.

4. Leave Room for Explorations

Your audience's excitement and desire to dig deeper are important. Here are some quick ways to enable exciting explorations on Power BI:

● Use filters, interactions, and drill-throughs: Power BI allows you to filter and create reports to create drill-throughs of data. You can then further customize these reports to only reflect data stakeholders are interested in.

● Use dashboard pages as a starting point for critical stories. For executive summaries, it’s ideal to create a dashboard and then establish a detailed drill-through to specific pages.

How Data Visualization Works

You use 70% of your mental faculty in visualization. The visual memory splits into three parts: iconic, short-term, and long-term.

Iconic memory is very short-term and doesn’t get stored for very long, such as when you’re driving the car. Your brain is seeing the road and taking decisions, then forgetting about that frame entirely.

When people look at your data visualization, most of it will stay in their iconic memory for a short time. This is why It's important to help them remember it longer by telling a story with your data.

Let’s begin with some things that will distract our iconic memory:

● A report full of too many bright colors

● Unreasonably thick borders

● No highlighting

● Gridlines

● Excessively precise numbers

Using bright colors to highlight important areas of the report to instantly grab the audience’s attention.

Maintaining reasonable spacing and clutter-free visualizations with few highlighted parts is an ideal visualization.

To ensure your data storytelling fits into the audience's long-term memory, ensure you have:

● A clear call for action

● Spark interest using pre-cognitive techniques

● Use data patterns that are easy to view and process (see Gestalt’s principles)

● Use text/audio to connect the dots while storytelling

Often, choosing the wrong form of visual representation can also ruin an otherwise excellent story. Choosing the right kind of graphs makes a significant difference. Let’s see what type of graphs supported by Microsoft Power BI are ideal for various purposes:

Comparison: Bar Graphs (Stacked/Clustered), Column Charts, Tables, Matrices

Composition: Tree, Pie Chart, Stacked Area,100% Stacked Columns, Water Fall

Trends: Line Graph, Funnel Chart, Line & Stacked Columns, Stacked Columns

Distribution: Scatter Plot, Bubble Chart, Map (for geographic distribution)

Status: KPs, Gauge, Cards (single/multirow)

Relationships: Area Curves, Bubble Charts

Ensure consistency in colors and broad reflection of data when making charts.

Best Dashboard Practices

Now that you know how to create a visually appealing story, here are some tips to make your dashboard look flawless.

  1. Know your audience well and personalize your dashboard design so that everything’s easy to understand for them.

  2. Let your data tell the full story on one screen. The difference between a dashboard and report is the dashboard is an overview while the report is specifics. That means you can show a broad overview with the dashboard, then use drill-throughs to lead users into reports!

  3. Highlight important info, put crucial parts top-left (where eye goes first) to ensure attention and easy understanding.

  4. Be sure you’re using the right visualizations and graphs, and encode the numbers nicely. But do not clutter numbers and charts on the screen. Leave space and maintain color consistency.

Bottom Line

Microsoft Power BI is user-friendly and the top choice for data visualization, regardless of the user's skill level.

You're officially all set to create a stunning, informative, and engaging visualization from your data sets that speaks for itself!

For help getting started, please contact Journeyteam today!


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