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Design meaningful presentations of complex data

Sunday, September 1st, 2013 by Servage

Since the web evolves while also being bombarded with a variety of data, this affects our web design process; especially when we are dealing with data driven or data rich websites. In normal circumstances, we have to integrate portions of data in our designing and programming efforts. Today, I will focus on the data designing.

In this case, I don’t mean to confuse the graphic designing tasks with data designing. Instead, this will include the broad spectrum of programming and UX for data. This is especially true when we are implementing the latest animation techniques to make our graphics relevant, as we are living in mobile-first era. In the earlier era of the web, we had only one way to show data — either as a colorful table format or as still images comprising of charts with lines, bars and pie.

Primitive Techniques

No doubt, the primitive image format is still effective, while also getting more advanced with the move towards infographics. Yet, these formats have certain limitations to present data effectively. I say this because I have observed most web designers using this technique, while designing data that simply puts attractive graphics alongside the data. In such cases, users of the website won’t benefit from the charm of data visualization with rapid comprehension, hence all such attempts become boring at second glance.

Another problem with data designing is that we miss the aesthetics by cluttering the data design with more unwanted graphic components and mere figures of the data. We have plenty of tools to beautify our presentations without losing its informative parts. For instance, colors enable us to put emphasis on certain components, but can also hinder some useless aspects from the scanning of infographics. Smart use of colors offers you a good opportunity to compare the data without indulging in the tables. This leads you to draw certain inferences, without losing interest in the data.

Latest Technologies

With technologies like Ajax, jQuery, and JavaScript, you can weave multiple stories with a blinking of different colors in animated data on various devices. Similarly, running lines on the screens in a graphical format via a zigzag or straight way shows the connections of data with each other. Apart from colors and lines, you have to utilize white spaces to make data more comprehensive and meaningful without cluttering it further.

Today, we have plenty of options to play with various shapes, even interactively, to get data design done effectively. If we have good command over the shapes to represent data, without distracting the visitors with overt graphics, we can make the data visually appealing. In the modern era, we also have numerous fonts and typographic elements to convey our message efficiently. We can give deeper insights by merely changing the size, shapes and typography or show correlations among the data by fixing their proximities.

Appealing Designs

Many web designers are leaning more towards the illustration portions of data by chopping them into bite sizes. But it hardly works, as the quality of data and stories involved are more detrimental during the consumption of the data that impact usage rates. In simple words, if your data lacks great information and usability, no one will pay attention. So a web designer has to ask for more qualitative data from their clients, to allow a designer to create more appealing pieces with fewer illustrations.

Sometimes we think, to be informative and beautiful while data designing, is mutually exclusive terms. But that is not accurate. If you data design wisely, you can create a visually appealing piece with enough information and stories to influence your messages. Advancements in designing technologies brings us more opportunities to effectively play with data during all sorts of web designing, including for mobile platforms.

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Categories: Tips & Tricks

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