Visualizing Data Without Excel

I’ve been collecting a lot of data lately. While I’m entering this data into Excel spreadsheets, I’m always thinking of ways to show the results, but I’m feeling quite inadequate lately and it may be time for Excel to start expanding its tools for visualizing data outside of just pie charts and bar graphs.

The most obvious data visualizations are the simple static infographics that are graphically designed really well. Here is a great example of one for visualizing the flu virus. We also just recently worked with Payal Patel to make an infographic to explain the workflow for an app we’re developing. They do require a lot of skills in graphic design.

Static infographics seem to be heavily concentrated on Pinterest now, which is starting to look like a dumping ground for them. But I see more emerging technologies that visualize data better than anything Excel can ever produce and much better than static infographics.

It started with Symplur’s analysis of Twitter Patient Communities during a Tweet Chat.

That video redefined the meaning of “Reach” for me and helped me better understand the dynamics of social networking and interactions that was discussed in the post.

I then started playing with Vizify to visualize my social media imprint. Explore the interactive “Year on Twitter” to really drill down my behavior on Twitter. Their new feature “FollowMe” creates a simple Twitter Video from my Twitter account. It was very easy to make.

And finally, Foursquare created this brilliant Time Machine that takes you through your check-ins starting from day one. View mine below:

The motion graphics are real clean. It was like seeing my life in fast forward. It’s interactive where you can just go through all of your check-ins one by one. They also allow you to download an infographic of your history (see below).

There are services available that can help visualize data like Piktochart and Visual.ly, but I feel that it will be even easier than hiring it out or using templates.

We may not need to learn how to visualize data because in the very near future, we will be inputting our data sets into software that can automatically generate graphics like Foursquare’s Time Machine.

The closest tool I have found to inputting data sets is Infogr.am. Even Google’s Maps Engine Lite has been designed to make it easier to create statistical graphic maps easier to understand by uploading data into a spreadsheet.

Not only will this improve our presentations within public health communication , but it will increase comprehension of data that is usually relayed to the public in statistical and epidemiological terms.

Prezi has changed the way we use PowerPoint, and now I’m ready for someone to change Excel.

foursquare-the-next-big-thing

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