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4 Tips for Visualizing Data With Maps

4 Tips for Visualizing Data With Maps

From a content marketing point of view, data visualization is extremely important. As we move through 2016, we’ll continue to shift away from text-based content and slowly gravitate towards visual mediums. However, that doesn’t mean people want less substance. They simply want to consume information in visually enticing ways. One such way is through the use of maps.

The Value of Data Maps

Data maps have long been a favorite visual tool for conveying dense information and results in aesthetically pleasing formats. However, in the past, the problem has been that data maps are very tough to construct – meaning only the most experienced specialists could use them. Thanks to an influx of resources, this is no longer true.

“The world of mapping and presenting data sets through geographical representations is no longer relegated to GIS librarians and highly trained technologists,” writes Ellyssa Kroski of Open Education Database. “New free and open source applications now make it possible to create complex and robust data visualizations in the form of maps that display statistics and poll results.”


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Tips for Stellar Data Maps

In order to use maps to effectively visualize data, you need to understand a few rules. By following these, you can ensure your target audience resonates with the information you’re conveying.

1. Obtain the Right Information

An effective data map starts with the right information. Without accurate and meaningful data, you won’t be able to create a valuable map. This means the most crucial aspect of data map creation actually has nothing to do with the map itself. Instead, it’s all about sourcing and interpreting the right data points.

Once you understand the data, your goal is to then use that understanding to make the conclusions crystal clear for the larger audience. This is always challenging, but is exponentially easier when you have an understanding of what’s happening.

2. Use Appropriate Colors

From a visual point of view, one of the most important aspects of displaying data on a map is selecting and implementing the right colors. As you can see in this example, colors are often the only key readers have when determining what a data map is saying. If the colors are confusing or harsh on the eyes, people easily lose focus. Furthermore, if you’re using multiple maps in the same presentation, each map should use the same color scheme to avoid confusion. This adds some continuity to the maps and allows your audience to become familiar with the meaning behind the data.

3. Remove Clutter and Distractions

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Depending on the tools and resources you’re using, you may have access to lots of different layers and labels. While these can be useful when designing certain data maps, they often serve as distractions.

“Removing as much clutter as possible removes potential distractions from your data and makes everything easier to read,” says data expert Jewel Loree. It’s never a good idea to include additional layers just for the sake of conveying superfluous information or details. Stick to what really matters.

4. Compliment the Map with Resources

Sometimes a map can’t convey all of the information you want to impart on your audience. In these cases, don’t be afraid to offer additional resources alongside your maps. These references allow you to leverage large amounts of data without overcomplicating the map itself.

Data Maps for Beginners

For a beginner, the act of using data maps to visualize complex conclusions can be challenging. However, it’s not impossible. With an understanding of how data maps are used and which strategies should be implemented to make them as clear and organized as possible, you can experience tremendous success. Keep these tips in mind and don’t be afraid to try something new.

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