When it comes to content marketing, nothing compares to a stunning data visualization. For one thing, an attractive image catches the viewer’s eye and gives the rest of your content a second or two to sink in. In the highly competitive environment of the 21st century Internet, that second or two can be critical.
Second, graphics excel at presenting data as a trend. In contrast, attempts to verbally describe the same data and the same trends risk bogging down in turgid enumerations of statistics. The abundance of data points that make a graphic so useful as well as so easy to take in becomes a negative and works against text, even when the information is presented as a table or chart.
The eye balks at all that gray. While your viewer can scan and possibly to pick out the outliers in this mass of information, data visualization just does the same job — and more — so much better. Consider this interactive graphic from the New York Times, for example. It contains just as much information as any census table, yet presents it vastly better due to a judicious use of color and a clean and uncluttered interface. Information not immediately relevant to the current view is hidden, yet discoverable by mousing over the graphic.
The chart presents daily activities by race, age, education, employment status, activity, family size and time of day. While it is possible to see what, for example, black males 15-24 tend to be doing at two in the afternoon, it is also possible to examine the time of day when people are most likely to be eating or watching television, and how this varies across groups.
Some of this content may not be particularly surprising — childless individuals spend less time on family than those with two or more children, for instance. But other trends are more subtle, yet shifting the display from one demographic to the other underlines them. The proportion of men who are working and the proportion of women who are working both dip markedly around noon, for instance, presumably for the lunch hour. However men are more likely than women to be eating instead; many women shop.
Comparisons, Concepts, Processes, Relationships and Time Lines
Data visualization is useful for more than just demographic data. It can also illustrate comparisons, concepts, processes, relationships and time lines. Gantt charts. for example, are frequently used in project management to identify and clarify the bottlenecks in a project, and to illustrate the effect of applying additional resources to clearing up prerequisite issues, such as building a road to a job site.
The New York Times also put together an interactive graphic that presented all of the possible paths to the presidency that were available to the 2012 presidential candidates. The interactive controls allow the viewer to explore various scenarios and the possible successful outcomes for each candidate. Assuming that Obama wins Florida for example lights up Romney’s sole remaining available winning permutation — he would have had to win in each and every one of the remaining battleground states to carry the electoral college.
Also as an example, the differences in rates of joblessness are much more starkly dramatic in this graph than they would be in a table, or even in a more traditional data visualization where all of the trend lines are plotted simultaneously. Look at how the curve jumps when groups with less education are selected.
Finally, look at this graph explaining trends in content marketing. As you can see, a seemingly complex subject is distilled down to key areas that are ripe for consumption.