Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

How to visualize your data in an attractive way with Flourish

There are so many great stories hidden in data. Tell them in an understandable and visually appealing way.

You’ve got lots of interesting data and want to share it with your audiences in a way they can consume it easily and it understand it? You don’t have to be a designer or coder in order to turn your data into some visually appealing graphs. There are some tools that help you build some nice visualizations.

When I worked as an editor for the media magazine “Horizont”, I prepared a story about the impact of the pandemic on data usage. As the story mainly consisted of figures and numbers I thought about the right format of the article. Soon I came to the conclusion that I need to choose a data-journalistic approach. I let the figures speak and visualized them and only wrote some explanatory text between the single visualizations. The result was a series under the working title “Corona data stories” consisting of five parts. Just have a look at it and drop a line underneath this post how you liked it. 😊

Why it’s important to visualize data

However, why not just choosing the simple way and throwing all that data in a simple text article? Because you have to choose the right format for a particular piece of information. That’s what I learned during my master’s program “Content Strategy” at FH Joanneum.

The Content Strategy Alliance’s definition of content strategy states the importance of the right format. It combines Kevin Nichols’ definition with Kristina Halvorson’s and defines content strategy as

“getting the right content to the right user at the right time through strategic planning of content creation, delivery, and governance.”

Remember yourself reading chunks of text only consisting of figures. Exhausting, isn’t? Why can’t there by some understandable visualizations, you might ask yourself. Because someone has to do them. Keep that in mind when you’re about to fill pages of text with numbers.

Why I chose Flourish

As already mentioned above, I did a data journalistic online series. The tool I used for all the visualizations is called Flourish. There are several reasons I love this browser-based visualization creator.

It’s for free: You can create every kind of visualization with the free account. And there is a huge selection of different kinds of visualizations.

It looks professional: You can produce lots of good-looking stuff with Flourish — even interactive and moving visualizations. For example, I did a so-called racing line chart about how the pandemic changed the use of porn sites in different countries.

It’s easy to use: You don’t need to have design or coding skills. Just upload a spreadsheet with your data, choose the right type of visualization and adapt it.

How Flourish works

You can’t wait to create your own visualization now? You are only a few steps away from it.

1. Create a free account

In order to work on your visualization, you have to create an account. Just choose the free version. It’s completely sufficient for our purposes. You can do quite everything with it.

2. Choose your type of visualization

Click “new visualization” on the left corner. You get an overview of all the available types of visualization. Choose the one that fits the information and data you want to convey best.

3. Structure and upload your data spreadsheet

When your selected type opens, there are two views — the preview and the data view. Click onto the data view. The table you can see now, tells you how the data in your spreadsheet should be structured. Adapt your spreadsheet, if necessary. Then click onto the button “upload data” on the right side and upload your spreadsheet

On the right side you can also assign the columns to certain values in the visualization.

4. Adapt your visualization

After you’ve sorted you data, change to the preview view. Here you can do the creative part of your visualization.

There are many options. For example, you can change colours, add a background picture, choose a title or change the scale unit of the x and y axis. Just click your way through all the possiblities. 😊

5. Export your visualization

Your work of art is finished? Now it’s time make it accessible to your audiences. Click on the button “Export and publish” on the right upper corner. There are two possiblities: You can embed the visualization on your website. Just copy the embedding code.

You can also download your visualization as an image and upload the image itself.

However, if you have some moving or interactive elements, it’s better to use the embedding code. The image just represents a static version of your visualization.

You want more information about Flourish or you are searching for a particular topic? Just have a look a the training section of Flourish. There are some usfeul tutorials.

Looking forward to seeing your first visualizations. Feel free to share them. 😊

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