Approximately 31 years ago, CERN scientist Tim Berners-Lee, also known as the “Father of the Internet” invented http protocol and first browser in March 1989. The rest is history as the internet popularity kept surging and so did the websites with it.
Today in 2020, active websites with content and traffic are expected to be around 400 Million and WordPress’s share as a Content Management System is a staggering 38% suggesting tens of millions of blogs and bloggers. It’s more ubiquitous than ever but quantity seldom means quality.
Importance of Data Visualization
In such a competitive and open-access industry you’ll have a hard time keeping visitors engaged if you’re not presenting data with impeccable visuals. In other words, blogging is not the lazy job that it’s sometimes believed to be.
Visualization is a story we tell about data. And as for all stories, there are good storytellers and bad storytellers. You can build beautiful visualizations that change people’s minds and eventually change our world for the better.
You can transform a dataset that would take 30 minutes to interpret and turn it into a striking visual that takes half a page in your blog and 5 seconds and a glance to get your important message across.
It’s one of the most impressive, coolest and enjoyable data activities we as humans engage in, probably because our brains evolved to have us defined as visual beings.
“Visualization is a story we tell about data.”
You may say “Well, I’m not a technical blogger. I don’t really need visualization.” The truth is if you are publishing any sort of content, chances are you are dealing with data, you yourself are likely contributing to statistics. And when there is data, there is a place for visualization.
Often as a blogger you help your audience figure something out or make a decision. Another point is that, as our lives become more sophisticated and more competitive and as we are bombarded with stimulants, our decision making time window is actually shrinking.
We don’t have the luxury of taking long times drawing a visual story but as modern humans we have the luxury of more sophisticated and practical tools than ever.
There are many reasons why it’s such a wise investment in your future to educate yourself about different data visualization methods and even programming techniques. And, I will try to share some of these reasons below. I will also share some great resources to get you started immediately so you can hit the ground running with your blogging efforts.
Ancient Roots in Africa
On the other hand, this technical sounding field might have deeper roots in human history than we often realize. Here is a Youtube video featuring a 73.000 years old stone carving which can be considered the oldest record of a drawing. We will never have the chance to meet the gentleman or lady that actually drew it and ask what it was all about but the neat carvings and quantity representations often suggest that some of these drawings might very well pass as ancient forms of data visualization as well.
Some of the barriers to data visualization are:
- Seems unnecessary: it’s not, clearly, at least in most cases.
- Seems too technical: It doesn’t have to be. Data visualization can vary from a simple chart or even drawing to a highly complex animated chart.
- Seems like there is a high learning curve: This can be true depending on your background and the technology you decided to use. But the variety of emerging tools help people from all backgrounds to find suitable vehicles of all levels of technical complexity.
- Embedding seems complicated: It definitely does. But as I will show later in this post some new technologies are allowing many different formats as output. If that seems too complicated to figure out, you can always just take a screenshot or capture the screen.
TOP 5 Benefits of Data Visualization
- Human Evolution
Since the early days of single cell creatures billions of years ago, we have come a long way. Modern human evolved to seek out visual sensory stimulus and information. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that we as humans really like pretty graphical representation. I don’t want to bore you with the neurological complexity of the relationship between primary visual cortex and visual association cortex so you can check out this blog post that elaborates brain’s interesting functions: Know your brain article.
Blogging is one of the most complex forms of social exchange and if your blog is not attracting the traffic you were hoping maybe you should step with pretty graphics and cater the basic human visual cravings
- Efficient Communication
So today, again probably thanks to the tech and internet advancements, big data is getting bigger and all data are getting more complex and relational.
One of the benefits of visualization is that you can sum up thousands of rows of Excel sheet or millions of rows of database data in a graphical image that takes a couple of minutes to understand.
Fast data interpretation is not something only businesses can benefit from. On the contrary business or not bloggers can take advantage of more charts, more infographics and more graphs.
And one of the side effects of visuals is that they don’t only make your posts more understandable they also make them more digestible.
- Art of Story Telling
Whether it’s online, offline, off-grid, on the mountain, in the desert or in the heart of metropolitan billions of people say different types of stories every single day. We as bloggers do the same thing through our blogs. And that’s what I love about blogging. Touch other people’s hearts, getting in other people’s brains, finding a worthy and good message, and trying to spread it every single day.
Now if you remember hearing stories from a parent or grandparent before bed or maybe a spouse in front of a bun fire, good stories involve more than robotic scripture. Good stories require as many sensory inputs as possible from smells and sound to you guessed right, visuals!
- A Personal Journey
Aside from all the benefits for the visitors of a blog, working with data visualization also makes the publisher understand the subject much better. It helps make new connections with other relevant topics, it helps see bias, it helps see mistakes and prejudice. As analytical folks say, raw data doesn’t lie.
- Enlightens Paths and Offers Guidance
Whether it’s commerce or pleasure, you are shooting blanks when you don’t decipher patterns. Patterns tell us what can be expected if a certain route is taken. Patterns can clarify strategy which is very important for your long term efforts to result in good outcomes.
We can’t go complementing charts and data visualization for a whole blog post and not go without some examples!
One tutorial that recently impressed me recently was this data visualization tutorial at Holypython.com. As a fan of beautiful charts, I get unlimited satisfaction when I see an aesthetic presentation matched with state-of-art technology.
This chart is showing the corona statistics per country per million (taken from this website). While the animation below is a simple graph oscillating similar to a seismograph.
- Tutorial about creating the Map Chart Data Visualization(programming involved!)
- Tutorial about Animated Chart in Pythonas Data Visualization (even more programming involved!)
Image Cap: Animated graph showing oscillation movement
The point is there are literally endless opportunities for data visualization. Depending on the are you blog in, some of the topic ideas can range between:
- Environmental stats
- Force Majeure events (earthquake, flooding, wildfires)
- Global warming and Climate Change (Sea levels, tree statistics)
- Socioeconomic Stats
- Blogging Stats (Visitors, Engagement, Income)
- Social Media Stats (Networks, Followers, Relations)
- Regional and Country Statistics
- Women Issues
- Education Projects
- Business Development
This boxy looking chart categorizes data as a treemap. This visualization is showing countries grouped by their continents with a population representing their box sizes and colour coding for expected life year on average. You can directly tell although Asia is falling behind with lots of dark orange-red colours which means 60-65 years, unfortunately, Africa continent is full of fuchsia and purple which means life expectancy averages as low as 50 even 40 years old.
Takeaway Tip: Data-driven visualization is only one of the benefits of learning a programming language. You don’t have to learn everything at one shot, you can just take what you need at the beginning matched with basic programming skills and then you can create data-visualization and eventually bigger things.
As I put some of these technical tutorials in my personal development bucket list for the time being I envy emerging visualization technologies and maybe some of my luckier visitors will have the time and technical background to pursue these knowledge opportunities such as Python Lessons, so I share them here for you and as a note to future self.
While before someone interested in these topics had to invest money in very expensive courses and learning material was very complicated, today the amount of free knowledge sharing is mind-boggling and everything is explained many times simpler than it used to be.
Another benefit of online resources is that you can be in Africa, Antarctica, or Far Asia these resources are at your feet regardless. You don’t have to travel, you don’t have to pay, you don’t have to ask for permission, all you have to do is have a plan and enthusiasm and will force to put in some sustained effort.
Alternative Professional Software
There are of course other software for data visualization, and these might suit someone’s needs better depending on the individual and business. Some examples are Tableau, Microsoft Office, Matlab and R Language. While R is a free alternative it requires a steeper learning curve and the other three are paid and proprietary options that might be unaffordable or restrictive for some.
However, if you don’t want to get too technical you still have many other options to make a beautiful blog post and share your message.
- Drawings: Who says hand drawing is too amateur for the internet. If you want to create a special connection between your blog and your visitors, drawings can be one of the most authentic ways to do that. On top of that, they will explain your idea super efficiently.
- Infographics: Infographics offer a sophisticated way of sharing information. Sometimes, one full and classy blog post with infographics can go farther than 100 dull blog posts that fail to explain a subject efficiently.
- Screen Recordings: Screen recording lets a blogger share practically anything. If it’s on your screen you can share it. There are many useful and free screen recording applications on the internet
- Embedded Youtube Videos: Another great way to supplement your blog post.
- Embedded Presentations: This is also a perfect way to elaborate on a topic within the page of your blog. And don’t think it will not bring you any traffic either because search engines are smarter than ever, and they will scan inside the documents on your blog as well.
It appears as if most bloggers share certain traits that are required to be a successful blogger. These are namely, content writing, networking, keyword preparation, HTML editing (or another relevant mark-up language for your blog), social media management, videography, research, and marketing skills.
But there are a few skills that sometimes get overlooked either because they are not understood well or they seem intimidating at the beginning. Great data visualization is not something we see in every blog post and it doesn’t have to be in every blog post. But it probably has to be in almost every blog in some form.
Visualization has the power to transform your blog. When you have an idea, a subject you want to work on, making a conscious effort to support it with a visual can be the separation between success and failure.
There is more than one way to make your blog more visual and we have elaborated common practices to just do that.
There is no doubt that computer programming is becoming very popular because it empowers people from different continents. If you have the opportunity to invest time in this topic, by all means, do that as it offers so many opportunities.
Also, I tried to explain some of the resistance points that may keep you from including visuals from your blog post. Hopefully, these can be valuable points for you to realize your dreams. Remember, when you have the inspiration act on it immediately! No matter how difficult it seems you can accomplish.
Thank you for reading! See you in the next post.