5 Common Mistakes In Data Visualization

With the rising popularity of infographics, we pinpoint some common mistakes


Data visualizations or infographics are at the heart of much of our data work today. They allow us to see results in a simple and easily digestible way, rather than needing to spend hours analyzing vast amounts of data.

Their popularity has gone beyond the boardrooms and business centres of the world though, now permeating into everything we do, from the ways in which we see how a sports team have performed, through to complex survey results being easily analyzed by the general public.

Alongside the huge number of visualizations now available throughout the world, the amount of mistakes when creating these infographics has also grown.

Below, we have listed the five most common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Messing With Convention

One of the reasons that infographics and graphical representations of data have become so popular is that the general understanding of them amongst the general population has increased.

The reason for this is that they have become accustomed to what certain graphics mean and how they relate to other pieces of information. It is a learned action, meaning that if it is deviated from it becomes confusing and harder to analyze.

Keep to conventions, so Y axes must start from the bottom and X axes from the left. Trying to change a proven method is going to nullify the simplicity that data visualizations represent.

Making It Too Complex

You have a survey that has thrown up 50 interesting pieces of information, surely the best way to communicate these is through a visualization? Sometimes, but often trying to fit all this information into a single infographic can mean that the image becomes too confusing to use.

If you are trying to include too much it will become difficult to read everything, meaning that the understanding of it will be diminished and the powerful message that you are trying to convey will be lost amongst hundreds of other facts and figures.

When in this kind of situation, it is important to be able to filter information to make certain that the message is getting through correctly. If this cannot be done perhaps putting together a series of visualizations would be a better idea, simply having more visualizations with the data divided between may offer a superior and far more easily understood solution.

Forgetting To Annotate

This one seems like a no-brainer, but is simply done.

At the key of every visualization is not how artistic it is, but how effectively it can convey complex data to a wide audience. This means that every axis needs to be labelled or any other depiction of data fully annotated. Having one big circle and one small circle representing a growth, but without the figures to back up this growth, is going to be very confusing.

Equally, if you are snipping the Y axis it is important to make sure that the representations show this, not simply showing a wildly inaccurate representation of numbers.

Making Comparison Difficult

When you need to compare two sets of data in an infographic it is important to make this as simple as possible. Creating an infographic that resembles a spot the difference game is not going to make for a well received visual.

This means keeping comparable graphs close to one another, making them easier to compare by using contrasting colours and always make sure that the annotations are in the same places and in the same size and fonts. Helping people to understand which pieces of information they should be paying attention to and comparing is going to make this process much simpler.

Forgetting To Use A Calculator

As soon as your numbers do not add up, the validity of your data is instantly gone. Even if it is by only 1% it is not clear where this 1% has gone to, making every one of the other figures you have used next to useless.

With the thousands of infographics now available online, people are almost looking for reasons why they should not be looking at yours. The simplest way to give them this reason is to not do your simple arithmetic correctly. 


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