Effective data visualizations allow viewers to quickly and accurately analyze data to make better decisions. Effective data visualizations follow three guidelines:

  1. Simple
  2. Interactive
  3. Self-interpreting

Simple visualizations are clean and uncluttered. They present only the necessary information for the decision making they are intended to facilitate. It is also helpful if they are pleasing to the eye. Of course, this last requirement is to some extent a matter of taste, so is open to interpretation.

Interactive visualizations provide the viewer with an opportunity to easily explore data and gain additional detail, when required. This can include everything from implementing a mouse-over tooltip to providing parameters and slicers allowing the viewer to change report content. It may also include the ability to drill down within a report or to drill through to a different, more detailed report with a single mouse click.

Self-Interpreting visualizations provide visual cues that give meaning to the data being presented. This can include something as simple as a line denoting a goal value or an indicator showing performance against budget, which can be extremely helpful. Trend indicators and trend lines provide context that can be very useful when drawing conclusions from a set of data.