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14 questions about data visualization tools

Questions to ask when considering visualization tools:

  1. How do you define and measure the quality of a chart?
  2. Which tools allow you to produce interactive graphs or maps?
  3. Which tools do you recommend for big data visualization?
  4. Which visualization tools can be accessed via an API, in batch mode? (for instance, to update earthquake maps every 5 minutes, or stock prices every second)
  5. What do you think of Excel? And Python or Perl graph libraries? And R?
  6. Are there any tools that allow you to easily produce videos about of your data (e.g. to show how fraud cases or diseases spread over time)?
  7. In Excel you can update your data: then your model and charts get updated right away. Are there any alternatives to Excel, offering the same features, but having much better data modeling capabilities?
  8. How do you produce nice graph structures - e.g. to visually display Facebook connections?
  9. What is an heat map? When does it make sense to use it?
  10. How do you draw "force-directed graphs"?
  11. Good tools for raster images? for vector images? for graphs? for decision trees? for fractals? for time series? for stock prices? for maps? for spatial data?
  12. How can you integrate R with other graphical packages?
  13. How do you represent 5 dimensions (e.g. time, volume, category, price, location) in a simple 2-dimensional graph? Or is better to represent fewer dimensions if your goal is to communicate a message to executives?
  14. Why visualization tools used by mathematicians and operations research practitioners (e.g. Matlab) are not the same as tools used by data scientists? Is it because of the type of data, or just historical reasons?

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Comment by Raúl Vaquerizo on April 2, 2013 at 8:25am

One of the most important question is, who is going to look the chart?

Comment by Sohail Iqbal on March 20, 2013 at 12:30pm

Good list, Thanks. I will add a few of mine:

1. Ability to prepare info graphics (by attaching data values to custom shapes in context)?

2. If the solution is mobile ready?

3. Supports cross publishing of real-time visualizations using web widgets (like Tableau, ExploreAnalytics etc.)?

4. Ready to deploy on private cloud?

Comment by Daisy Ding on March 19, 2013 at 12:17am

Good question list, regarding question 7, I think esCalc a better alternative to Excel, they have similar features, but having much better calculation and data process capabilities, making the complex data more visual and direct for users.

Comment by Paul Hiller on March 14, 2013 at 11:41pm

Good list; possibly more comprehensive than some business exec seeking specific solutions would really need to ask. As an exec, I would primarily want to know that my visualization tool would be

  1. readily responsive (as indicated in your Q#7)
  2. fully customizable so that it can produce accurate and effective communications relevant to my business needs (as indicated in your Q#13)
  3. automatically integratable with a Big Data analytics platform
  4. dependably supported

What good is visualization if it isn't easy to craft a clearly communicated message? Or to get tech help when needed? Oh, motion-graphic options as indicated in Q#6 would be a useful feature from a communications standpoint--quite possibly a deal-breaker when comparing tools.

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