The Secret of an Award-Winning Visualization

And a new YouTube Video!

Today, I want to share my secret to build a winning visualization. But before getting to that part, I just wanted to share some new content.

Last week, I finally released a new YouTube video about the Figma to Tableau plugin. I always have many questions about “How to use it,” and this video should answer almost all of them!

Every time I publish a new visualization or video, I try to learn something new or make it 1% better than the previous one, so hopefully, this will show!

If you like the video, please let me know, but putting an actual like on YouTube is free and does help a lot!

Now to the secret.

Every dashboard needs a CAP.

(In French)
Cap: (Figurative sense) Direction in which we travel, target.

I have never spent more time thinking about one dashboard than in 2017 for the final of the Iron Viz competition.

If I made it to the final, I trusted my ability to build a dashboard in 20 minutes (even if, at that time, copy-pasting and data preparation were not allowed!). But the challenging part for me was presenting in English and winning an audience (who did not know me) in just five minutes.

As a reminder, during the final of the Iron Viz, three contestants have to build a dashboard in 20 minutes, live on stage, and then have five minutes to present it.

So, I looked back at my successful previous work and tried to figure out what worked well.

None of my previous visualizations that were either Viz Of The Day or “award-winning” shared the same colors or style. However, they all had three key elements:

  • They are easy to understand: when you first look at the dashboard, you know the topic and what to do.

  • They are interesting: the data is presented so that if you don’t know much about the subject, you quickly learn something new.

  • They are personal: you can constantly interact with the dashboard to get specific information tailored for you (your country, your interest, etc).

So that was my plan: build a dashboard that is easy to understand, interesting, and personal.

Context: The Big Picture

With only five minutes to win an audience with a dashboard, context is key.

One-third of my dashboard is pure context. Part of that is the title, but I also deliberately duplicated the same simple area chart showing the median house value three times. The only difference is that I highlight the three main periods: the bubble, the crisis, and the recovery.

You could argue that a lot of prime real estate is used to showcase the same information, and you’d be right. However, I wanted to ensure that everyone remembered when these periods occurred so that they could deliver on the next part without losing the audience.

Analysis: State-by-State Timeline

One-third of my dashboard is pure analysis. This was the core of my dashboard. This is where I am telling the story.

My favorite data storytelling video (and a must for anyone working in data visualization) is Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes. This video was my main inspiration and triggered the idea of animating my dashboard during my presentation at Iron Viz (a first!).

The audience was shocked when the bars started moving. Many had no idea you could easily do that in Tableau! But instead of animating just for fun, it allowed me to add another layer to my geographical analysis: time.

Personalization: What about you?

One-third of my dashboard is purely personal. I repeated the same information: median house value and % of houses increasing/decreasing in value. However, I added two filters allowing anyone to see their State or City data.

On stage, I mentioned someone I talked to earlier who lives in the State of Washington; I filtered the dashboard and told a story about what happened there.

The only additional chart here is the Current house value per city. If you choose your State, you probably want to compare your city to others. You may even use the dashboard to find a new house!

The last surprise was the ability to click on a city bar and see the current houses on sale in that city directly from Zillow (the data provider for the competition).

This last part uses a very simple functionality of Tableau, but it still completely wows the audience. It allowed them to go from data on a screen to actual houses in the real world. This transformed the data into something personal everyone can relate to (ok, probably not to the homes in Yarrow Point, but you get the idea!).

Context, Analysis, Personalization: Every dashboard needs a CAP (sounds much better in French).

My dashboard was not the most technically or visually impressive, but I believe that I won thanks to how I built my dashboard… and maybe my French accent.

We’ve been working hard on new advanced charts for AdvViz, and I’m happy to share that you will soon be able to create Streamgraphs and Trees (radial, horizontal, and vertical) easily in Tableau and always for free!

More details in the coming weeks!

That’s it for this week!

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