Storytelling Tip: Don’t Neglect the Set-Up

Provide Context so Your Users Can Find Insights and Take Action

Ryan shares his very first Tableau Public visualization and how he improved it by providing context such as titles, subtitles, annotations, and legends. The updated visualization provided the context needed to help the audience understand the visualization and find insights.

Hi, this is Ryan with Playfair Data TV. And in this video, I’m going to share a quick storytelling tip, which is to not neglect the set-up. I just find that as an analyst and as an author, I find that sometimes we get very close to an analysis. And some of the insights that we’re finding seem to be common sense.

We’ll put something in front of somebody and, kind of, think to ourselves how can you not be seeing this insight? How can you not see that spike on the line graph and understand what’s happening? But you have to remember that they don’t have the same context. They haven’t put in the same work and the thought that you have into that analysis. So you have to manually provide that context for them to help them get the insight from the view so that hopefully they can take action on it.

We’re all guilty of this. To help illustrate, I love to share this. This is my very first Tableau Public visualization on the screen here. It looks at NFL interconference records by conference. So the blue circles are the NFC in the NFL, and the red circles are the AFC.

You wouldn’t know that, because there’s no title on here. There’s no context whatsoever. There’s nothing to explain how to read this. This was my first shot. We all have to start somewhere.

One of my very favorite ways to learn in Tableau is to try to re-tackle the same subject over and over. So the same exact thing, I will then try to create a new visualization about it a year or two down the road to incorporate what I have learned along the way. This is the third iteration of this visualization that I created, and I know it’s a little bit small to see on the screen there but I will point out a couple of things that are just making this so much better and easier to analyze.

First of all, a title, so I just right off the bat tell you what this visualization is about. There’s, kind of, a catchy title, but then there is a very explicit subtitle that says this is a visualization of NFL interconference records. There’s also a little color legend that’s helping explain how to read this.

There are annotations along the way that are providing insights that I came up with on my own so that my end user doesn’t have to work very hard. But just all in all just such a– so much better context to help my end user understand what they’re looking at. This is going to help you in any corporate application.

This does, though, have one side effect that may or may not be relevant for everybody, but by providing this surrounding context or set-up as I’m calling it, it gives Google extra information. You’re providing metadata about your visualizations so that other people can find them. It makes it easier to find.

To help illustrate, I’m going to jump over here to Google and I’ve opened this incognito browser. So it doesn’t have any of my history. This search result is not going to be because I’ve looked for this before. I’m just going to search for AFC versus NFC record.

And sure enough, the very top entry is that visualization that I just showed you. That would not have been possible without that surrounding context to explain what this was about. Notice it’s got National Football Post down here, and even the 3rd entry is that original– the visualization over on Tableau Public.

So I posted this on Tableau Public, but then I also embedded it on my own website. So two out of the three first search results, it’s not bad. You might be thinking, well, nobody searches for AFC versus NFC record, which they do. But let’s take a look and say NFL interconference records. Well, we will phrase this in a slightly different way and see what happens.

Sure enough, same thing. My visualization 50 years of AFC Versus NFC Matchups is number one. We’ve then got second, And then once again, there’s an older version of this that I’ve got at a different website. So I’m capturing some of those first results.

So not only is providing some set-up– and I’ll give you a couple of examples of how to do that: title, subtitle, how to read, methodology, annotations, all of that context or set-up is going to help your end users in any corporate environment. But not only that, it’s going to give your visualization more information that, perhaps, Google could find to help your analysis get found by other people, which will increase, again, the chances of somebody taking action.

This has been Ryan with Playfair Data TV – thanks for watching!