Data visualization and storytelling


Increasing engagement through data visualization

How to flourish through data storytelling instead of data dashboarding

“We create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003,” says former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. On a global level, we generate about 100 billion WhatsApp messages, 500 million tweets and more than 700,000 hours of YouTube content every single day.

Putting this into perspective, online content reached a whopping 59 zettabytes in 2020 — a unit big enough to fill about a quarter of Manhattan with data!

This is a megabyte — an average MP3 audio file is about a few MB in size.

This is a gigabyte — 1GB can store about 230 songs.

A terabyte is 1000GB (10x100GB).

A single terabyte can store up to 250 films.

A zettabyte is enough storage for 30 billion 4K movies.

In 2024, it is projected that there will be 149 zetabytes of data. At the average current internet connection speed, it would take 1.8 billion years to download it all.

We live in a world almost entirely driven by data — from election polls to Spotify Wrapped, data is everywhere. However, in order to benefit ourselves and our audience, we must learn how to use it effectively — and this is where data visualization comes in.

In this article, we’re going to explore the benefits of using interactive charts as a means to convey information and how they can increase interaction.

First things first — why is data visualization a good communication tool?

In a nutshell, data visualization is a way of visually presenting information. While it makes data easier to comprehend, data visualization helps us detect patterns and trends faster and in a more visually appealing way.

Taking into consideration that many of us perceive visual information better than any other type of information, charts, infographics and visual storytelling are crucial for engaging your audience. And regardless of whether the person looking at your reports is a newspaper reader or your manager, keeping their attention is equally important.

Show, don’t tell

When it comes to user experience and engagement, there is a plethora of statistics that speak to the rapid movement towards visual communication. According to a report by PwC, “visual content is 40 times more likely to get shared” online and across social media.

Data storytelling as the way forward

Data significantly impacts today’s businesses and consumers, especially when it comes to decision-making. In fact, 90% of business leaders surveyed by the analytics database company Exasol in 2021 say that “achieving data democratization is now a priority for their business and that they are taking the necessary steps to achieve it.”

Visualizing (and grasping!) data is a complicated task, and presentation is key. In an attempt to present everything at a glance, we might take a wrong approach of overloading our charts and creating complicated dashboards, leaving our viewers clueless as to what the key insights of our data are.

In the same Exasol study on how data storytelling is key to success, more than half (53%) of the surveyed business leaders and data professionals agree that dashboards are not an effective way to present data due to the time it takes to interpret them.

With a focus on data storytelling as opposed to simply showing stats, we’re constantly expanding our creative boundaries. From scrollytelling to talkies, you can choose the most suitable medium for you and your users.

And through ease of embedding Flourish into virtually any other tool, you can combine your Flourish visuals with storytelling tools like Canva or Shorthand. Retail Week integrated their Flourish visuals with Shorthand to create a special report and said: “This was our top-performing commercial sponsored campaign that year. Without being able to integrate Shorthand and Flourish, we just wouldn’t have been able to make something as engaging as that.”

Data + visualization + storytelling = ❤️

Despite its relevance, data won’t be sufficient by itself. When your audience can understand what your data means, and more importantly, what are you trying to conclude, they are more likely to retain and comprehend the information.

A 2015 study by Infogram and DC Thompson concluded that on average, dwell time increased by 62% when the publication included data visualization. What’s more, the scroll-through to the bottom of the pages containing charts increased by a whopping 317%!

In addition, visualizing raw data became the most efficient method of fact-checking during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was proven not only by the drastic increase in interactive explainers (such as one of Washington Post’s most read stories ever), but also by the enormous popularity gain of Flourish as a tool.

The last couple of years demonstrated that people are interested in data-driven storytelling, even if lack of data literacy is still a global concern. Therefore, every organization should focus on both delivering straightforward answers and weaving a narrative that serves non-data-proficient audiences, as well.

As consumers, we value the visualization of personal data — think about health apps or progress trackers. Seeing our goals and achievements in a clear and visual way motivates us to act — to subscribe for a premium plan so we can track more verticals, to share our results on social media so we can compare our scores to others, or to think of points for improvement in our everyday lives.

As merchants, vendors and providers, we are also driven by data. Besides, data visualization is sometimes the only way to clearly summarize the work you have done over the last month, quarter or year. It is also extremely influential, as it encourages straightforward decision-making.

Finally, data is both interesting and a serious time-saver. We get it — people are busy, easily bored and distracted. Although humorous to compare, think of an audience of toddlers — would you give them a colorful picture book or a hundred-page scientific journal to advance their learning skills?

The key is how to visualize your data — see this help doc to learn more about the best use case of each chart.

How to get started

With Flourish, it’s easy to get started on your data storytelling journey to increase engagement and explain complex issues.

Simply select a template, upload a spreadsheet or connect to a live data source, and you’re off!

Our template chooser allows you to choose from a range of visualization templates to easily start creating enaging graphics of your own

In addition, we offer bespoke themes, access to premium templates, on-demand training and tailored customer support on our Business and Enterprise plans.

Since our launch in 2016, we’ve helped thousands of users bring their data stories to life. We’re also a proud member of the Canva family and on a mission to empower the world to design with data. Will you join us?

Get started with Flourish now »