The Simplest Way to Visualize Data – Impact Metrics
When it comes to visualizing data, all else being equal, simpler is better. We want to make life as easy as possible for our audience. The less time and effort our audience must spend interpreting our visualizations, the more they can understand and engage with our message.
Taking simplicity to its most extreme form, we arrive at nothing more than a simple number. No charts, no tables, no diagrams, just plain text like the number below.
We’ll look at three types of impact metrics:
1. Text with images
2. Multiple metrics
3. Impact Metrics in Context
Let’s take a look at an example where impact metrics can improve our data story. This chart depicts data collected from a firm that has surveyed its customers and asked them questions like “Do you understand our brand promise?” Customers can then respond to each question with five choices, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this chart if our goal is to present all the data to our audience so that they can derive their own insights from it. But what if we’re giving a live presentation? And what if we have a story to tell, and we want our audience to follow our narrative?
I’m alarmed by the proportion of customers who don’t understand our brand promise, and I want to seize my audience’s attention and motivate them to take action to remedy this problem.
As I’m passionately making my case for developing a clearer brand promise, my audience is very likely to start examining and thinking about some of these six other questions shown in this chart.
1. Simple Text
A slide like this is so easy to create. It’s nothing more than a text box.
2. Text with images
Because this approach is so simple, it provides an opportunity to inject a bit of graphic design flair. We could re-imagine our slide with a hero image.
The image helps evoke some feelings that we may want to stir in our audience; in this case, empathy for our customers’ confusion. We could humanize our presentation a little more by sharing this woman’s story when presenting this slide. For example, “This is one of our survey participants, Airelle. Airelle is one of many customers we talked to who liked our product offering but felt confused and unsure of what our brand promise is all about. We need a strategy to help Airelle understand what our brand promise means to her.”
Let’s look at another example of an impact metric with an image. This time we’ve focused on the positive story of the 60% of customers who would recommend us to family or friends.
There’s a simple formula in both slides that we’re following to create an impact metric with an image.
1. Choose a relevant background image. In this case, we’ve got some happy customers pointing at our impact metric as if to recommend us.
2. Ensure that the image isn’t too busy or distracting. Here we’ve just cropped out the happy customers so that there are no distracting background components.
3. Ensure that the text in our impact metric is easy to read and stands out against the background. In this case, because the image is cropped, we have a white background, making it particularly easy to ensure that our text is readable.
A quick alternative to cropping out people and objects is to crop the entire image like in the example below, creating a panel of white space where you can place the impact metric text.
Alternatively, we can use dark hues or black for our background and then use light colors or white for our fonts. For example, this impact metric below emphasizing that our brand is not perceived as being tech-savvy.
If we choose a busy background image, like in the example below, and overlay text on it, we end up with an impact metric slide that’s distracting and difficult to read.
3. Multiple Metrics
We don’t have to limit our impact metrics to one number per slide. Let’s say that we want to highlight the three areas where our brand is doing best. So we want to call out that our brand is trustworthy, high quality, and value for money. We could lay three impact metrics out on a slide like this.
Three photographs could start to get pretty busy, so we’ve added some icons instead. These icons are straight from the free icon library in Microsoft PowerPoint. Simple iconography results in a clean and clutter-free slide while leveraging some imagery that helps our audience connect with our story.
If you want to lead your audience through a story, consider whether you can distill your data down to a few simple numbers that drive home your point. It might be time to try the simplest form of data visualization: impact metrics.
To learn more, check out our Data Storytelling for Business Course , where you can practice and implement techniques like impact metrics.