Not all Data Viz needs to tell a story

Data viz can have a bad rep.

Sometimes this is justified – it’s just badly done. But there are times when the type of data viz is wrong for the objective it’s trying to achieve. Understanding the purpose and audience of your data viz is key to its success.

Data viz can be exploratory (used to explore data) or explanatory (used to explain data).

An amazing example of a recent exploratory data viz is Chris McDowall’s interactive NZ election vote map. Users have the power to navigate and seek answers to their own questions. The data is presented without bias - it is there to explore.

Exploratory data visualisations don’t tell stories, they enable them be found and written.

However, if a user is uninterested in exploring, their usual response is… “so what”? This question is a sign they want to be told a data story.

Explanatory data visualisations tell stories.

So next time ask yourself, is your data viz here to explore or to explain?