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Data Visualization Best Practices
Data Visualization Best Practices

mySidewalk has many customizable components to visualize data, but how do you decide which ones to use?

Written by Amanda Nelson
Updated over a week ago

So you’ve taken the time to learn how to use the mySidewalk platform all the way from exploring data in Seek to creating maps in Chart! mySidewalk has many customizable components to visualize data, but how do you decide which ones to use?

Luckily, mySidewalk’s data visualization experts have created a style guide dashboard with best practices in typography, design, data visualization, and integrating equity into data stories. Check out the best practices dashboard and here are some quick tips.

  1. Check the colors in your report for accessibility.

    1. It’s important for your data to be readable to all audiences, and poor color choices can make your data almost impossible to interpret. Luckily, mySidewalk has a color palette generator that also checks for accessibility requirements.

  2. Use photos to personalize your report or dashboard.

    1. Using photos can make your site come to life. If you don’t have an image but would like to tune up your dashboard, Unsplash, Pixabay, and Nappy are great options to find free, high-quality stock images. Learn more about image selection, photo editing, and more in our style guide dashboard.

  3. Put equity at the forefront of your data story.

    1. Equity in data visualization, at its core, is data visualization created with empathy. Think “If I were one of the data points on this visualization, would I feel offended or excluded?” Here are a few key recommendations:

      1. Use person-first language: Instead of labeling data with the name of a race or ethnicity, for example “Black” use the term “Black people.”

      2. Contextualize the data: Presenting data on its own without narrative leaves interpretation fully up to the reader and their inherent biases. Contextualizing your data with narrative and footnotes can make a big difference in how your viewers perceive a visualization.

    2. Learn more about visualizing data with an equity lens from the Urban Institute’s Do No Harm Project.

  4. Consider reducing the use of pie charts.

    1. The best use case for a pie chart is for when 5 or less variables make up the whole dataset and add up to 100% in a meaningful way. This is because our brains are bad at interpreting slices in a pie due to the angles and inability to see smaller slices. There are many other chart types you can use in reports and dashboards depending on the nature of your data. If your data are:

      1. Categorical, use a bar chart

      2. Temporal, use time series

      3. Part of a whole that equal 100%, but has more than 5 variables, use a bar chart

      4. Comparing geographies, use a bar chart, table, or map

      5. Negative, use a bar chart or map

Adopting these best practices can make your reports more understandable and consistent. When in doubt about how to visualize your data, take a look at our style guide!

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