image via Science @ Columbia
Sometimes it may seem impossible to draw meaning from the mind-boggling amount of data out there on the inter-webs. Thankfully, entirely new methods for visualizing data have emerged, offering us new ways to find meaning. We can now make sense of “big data” sets like social network usage, weather patterns, patient records, or even something super important like the evolution of crayons. These data visualization tools are no longer just aids, they have become the most effective way to interpret this data. They also make for far more interesting ways of illustrating concepts or engaging users.
Any company with some customer data and bit of creativity should become familiar with these tools. Your data visualization strategy could provide the framework for a content marketing plan that becomes the major differentiator between you and your competitors.
Mapping Data Visualization Tools
One of the most popular and useful methods of data visualization is the map, whether it’s to show data from elections or Facebook connections. They are particularly useful for demonstrating our planets interconnectivity and shedding light on geographical trends and preferences.
BathGeo is a free, Web-based tool that allows users to create interactive maps from spreadsheets. It’s mobile friendly and easily embedded on your website or in your mobile app.
2) Modest Maps
A Modest Maps is a tool for web designers that also allows them to make interactive maps which are easy to integrate. It’s lightweight, simple, and the API isn’t difficult to master. It’s great for building fully customized maps as it allows you to add your own interaction code.
Those looking to integrate fully interactive data visualizations that come in an HTML5/CSS3 container can try out Leaflet. While the basic library is a bit small, plugins can easily be added to incorporate everything from animated markers and masks. It’s great for any data that needs to be overlaid on a geographical projection.
Tools for Music, Movies, and Other Media
Media is all around us and visualizations can easily help us make connections and discover new information and preferences based on what we already like. Here are some tools to that help to visualize data related to media.
5) Narratives 2.0
Narratives 2.0 allows you to visualize music. Here’s what Queen’s “We Will Rock You” looks like:
Liveplasma is a Flash app created to help people discover new music and movies they might enjoy in a visual format. Simply type in a band, artist, movie, director, or actor and the app comes up with a web of related items and allows you to play a sampling.
Tuneglue is very similar to Liveplasma. Clicking on each new addition brings you further and further into a journey of music discovery.
Last.Forward is a downloadable, open source software specifically created to show relationship within the music social network Last.fm. Another great way for discovering new music and connecting with users of similar tastes.
Used to create relationships over time using text and visuals, timelines have become revamped with the growth of internet data visualization tools. No longer the static pieces of information plotted along a line, they can now be fully interactive and move around at a users bidding.
One of the best free interactive tools out there for creating timelines using text, links, pictures, and media, Dipity.com also allows you to embed the timelines on your website and blog. After you’ve created a timeline you can go back at any time to edit and further customize.
Appropriately named, Timeline is a widget that specializes in showing a lot of data in a small space. To reveal more information, the user clicks on an element which then responds by revealing more in-depth information.
Charts, Graphs, Diagrams, and More Infographic Tools
The days of boring office charts and graphics are safely in the past because anyone can create great visuals for almost any kind of data. These tools will help anyone visualize data in a more meaningful and engaging manner.
Visual.ly is a data visualization marketplace and platform for helping brands connect with creators, as well as create themselves stunning visual content for their content marketing efforts.
14) Many Eyes
IBM developed this visuals generator that features several tools for analysis as well. You can use publicly available or uploaded data sets and glean information by scanning text for keyword density and saturation among other useful searches.
15) Google Charts
There’s no talking about internet tools without bringing in Google and their highly influential Google Charts with its myriad of excellent developer tools. Much of the web relies on Google Charts for the creation of specialist data visualizations that allow not just for user interaction but even built-in animations.
16) jQuery Plugins
There’s a couple jQuery plugins that are definitely worth noting in a discussion of how to visualize data. One of these is jQuery Visualize Plugin, an open source plugin used for charting in an HTML canvas. A prominent feature of this tool is its focus on achieving screen-reader friendliness through support for the ARIA platform. Another plugin from jQuery is the jqPlot which works to create traditional line and point charts in a new and visually simulating manner. Instead of the static data points, they can now be connected using trend lines and interactive points can be adjusted as well as easily updated with new datasets.
These are just a few tools for how to visualize data. Exploring each one of them and the myriad of other resources available will help you create a much richer and engaging content for your users.
What tools are we missing? I’d love to know what you’ve used…