In our last post, industry thought leader and author Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic explained why data visualizations present a design challenge and how individuals can use design elements effectively.

In addition to clear design, effective data visualizations are easy for your intended audience to understand. So, when you’re creating the data visualization, you must put yourself in the audience’s shoes and try to anticipate how they’ll interpret the information.

However, according to Knaflic, “sometimes it’s easy for the audience to end up being an afterthought.”

Here’s how she explains it:

In my view, audience should be front and foremost in your mind throughout the analytical process. If you think about the entire analytical process, you really start off with a question or a hypothesis. Then you have to go gather data, then you have to clean the data, then you have to analyze the data. At the end of all of that, it’s easy to just throw it in a graph and be done.

But that graph is the only part of the process that your audience ever sees. So my view is that the graph deserves at least as much attention as the rest of it. And, you should really keep your audience in mind and be designing that graph or the communication in which that graph sits for your audience. This means understanding how your audience sees and how you can leverage visual cues to make your data visualizations accessible and understandable to your audience.

Knaflic has several recommendations for approaching the process of seeing what your audience sees:

Grab a friend or a colleague. Whether it’s a graph that you want to get some feedback on or a presentation where you’re trying to figure out if it will hit the mark, walk someone else through it. Or, don’t walk them through it.

With a graph, one really cool trick is just to put it in front of somebody and have them talk you through their thought process. Knowing what they pay attention to, what questions they have, and what observations they make can be really useful for understanding whether the point you’re trying to make is getting across. If it isn’t, this process can give you pointers on where to concentrate your iterations.

As we get really close to our work, it becomes almost impossible to take a step back and see things through our audience’s eyes. That’s where the value of getting a fresh perspective from somebody else who has a view that’s going to perhaps be more similar to your audience can be super helpful.

Knaflic’s book, “Storytelling with Data,” an Amazon bestseller, guides readers through data visualization best practices. To Knaflic, that means “making it clear to your audience where you want them to focus, what you want them to get out of it, and pairing that with the power of story.”

iCharts | Cloud Enterprise customers can also make use of pre-built interactive dashboards that incorporate data visualization best practices for sales, customer service, supply chain, and finance. These dashboards are available as a standalone product or integrated within leading ERP and CRM systems, including NetSuite and Salesforce. Learn more by downloading the best practices briefs from our resource center.

Be on the lookout for the next post in this series, which will discuss important do’s and don’ts of data visualization.

Watch the full interview below.