Four Key Features to Look for when Choosing Data Visualization Software

As the volume of relevant information that organizations must sift through grows, organizations are increasingly finding it difficult to gain actionable insights from very large, complex data sets. Without the appropriate systems or applications to manage all this data, data itself can lead to counter-productivity.

Data visualization is named one of the (re)emerging trends in 2011 to help businesses better leverage their data. If your organization is considering on utilizing visualization technology, you’ll find that there are quite a few tools with different features out there. From twenty years of experience, here are four key things people have told us what they typically look for when choosing the right data visualization software to achieve their business goals.

1. Scalability and Complexity Management

Let’s say you are responsible for managing complex networks. Your data sets can easily contain tens of thousands to millions of objects. If the software takes minutes to recalculate your network map, your application may be useless and you can become inundated with your data. If it doesn’t provide tools like expanding and collapsing nested nodes, hiding, and filtering, then your users won’t be happy working with large data sets when they can’t choose see only what is relevant to them.

2. Stability

Visualization software can bring value in a huge variety of industries, and the way you want to use it may not be unique. Proven, well-tested software is more likely to be stable no matter how you use it.

3. Attention to Layout and Labeling

Well-designed visualization software enhances user comprehension of your data. It puts labels where you can read them, not on top of other objects. It always ensures links terminate right at the node, not somewhere close by. It ensures you can tell which label belongs with which object, and it makes the best use of the available space to ensure clarity in your visualization. A good tool does this automatically.

4. Customizability and Flexibility

A visualization may show link labels above the links, but what if you want them on the left? The icons might be a beautiful shade of blue, but your corporate color is green. What if you don’t want to display an overview window? Can you turn it off?  Having broad, well-documented, and well-supported APIs for all available functionality is essential if you want to be able to produce the results you want.