- [Instructor] Any communications, whether it's a website or a video or even a circus, requires knowing your audience and adjusting the presentation to them. So, for instance, you're doing a circus, it's for kids, of course you're going to go full-on Ringling Brothers with lions and tigers and bears and clowns. But if you have a more sophisticated audience, you might have a little more nuance and artistry. A little more Cirque Du Soleil than Ringling Brothers. What do we need to know about our audience for visualization? It's really the same as for any communications challenge.
We need to understand their culture, their level of expertise, and a few other things. I'm going to talk through them here one by one. First, culture. Your audience comes from a certain place in the world. It affects their language, it affects their perspective, it affects their context, so many different things. So, for example, think about, what does a wedding look like? Sometimes it looks like this or like this or like this. It affects the colors that are used. Now, color theory's its own big conversation that we're not going to cover in detail in this course, but culture's an important influence on color amongst other things.
For instance, what does a wedding dress look like? Is it white? It is red? And remember that what looks odd in one culture might be completely normal in another one. Another thing culture influences is narrative context. Does your audience know the underlying story of what you're talking about? So, for instance, let's say you're creating a visualization of Wayne Gretzky statistics. Now, Wayne Gretzky was probably the greatest hockey player who ever lived. So, if you're doing this visualization for people in northern countries who play a lot of hockey, you probably don't need to set a lot of context.
You don't need to explain who Wayne Gretzky is. But if it's a visualization for people in, maybe, Brazil or Madagascar, they might not have as much of that context. You might need to set up the story a little bit better for them. The next one is level of expertise. If you're creating a project and it's for people who are experts in an industry, you're going to approach it in one way. Less context, less hand-holding, maybe even use different language, different types of words, more lingo. If your audience isn't quite as informed on the subject, you're going to provide more background information, more hand-holding.
It's going to be like, maybe, a shallower story with less detail. There's also what I call the consumption context or channel. Your work isn't just for fun or self-admiration, you want to publish something somewhere somehow. So, whether you're creating a visualization for the New York Times or the Daily Show or a Bill's Blog for data dorks, it's going to change your approach. One might be more serious. Maybe a higher standard of excellence, maybe more statistical integrity. The other might be more irreverent. You might have lower journalistic standards.
You might round to fewer decimal places with your numbers. It's not about being less accurate, but you may be less detail-oriented in certain contexts. Another issue is accessibility. Now, data visualization is all about visualization, it's all about the eye. So, we're only dealing with sighted people, correct? Well, yes and no. You could say that you could create a, quote, unquote, data visualization but really it's just audio. Maybe there are other ways of thinking about this field. Data audiolization maybe is a word.
But there are other accessibility issues also, even if you don't go quite that far, the big one being colorblindness. From one to 3% of people are colorblind, and there's an especially common form called red-green colorblindness where people have difficulty distinguishing between red and green. So, just think about stock market charts where red is always used to mean prices going down and green for prices going up. So, think about what that might mean for the one to 3% of people who have trouble distinguishing between those two colors.
Luckily, in trying to channel your audience and understand what they're going through, there's a great website to help you with this. There's this website where I can actually take an image and upload it. So, I'm actually going to select an image from my hard drive here, and this is actually an image from Google Finance, so it is a stock chart image, and it's going to show me what the chart looks like to me. This is the original image over here. And then I can actually go in and click on these little radio buttons and see what it would look like for people with different forms of colorblindness. Really helpful tool, it really literally lets me channel my audience and see what they would see.
It's a great way to take a look at your work and test it and make sure that you're being friendly to all of your audience. There are other things to think about when you're thinking about the visually impaired. A big one being contrast and font size, creating your charts with enough contrast to be easily seen, making sure the font size is large enough to be read. Forget about visual impairment, just think about your audience. If they tend to be over 40 years old, make sure your font sizes aren't 10-point. If your chart is for college kids, eh, don't worry about it so much. The next thing to keep in mind is whether or not your audience consists of true believers or skeptics, or more often than not, it's both, but you have to be aware of it.
If you're visualizing data, let's say, about climate change, to climate scientists, it'll be received differently than if you're sharing the same data with a publication targeting the coal mining industry. This is a dangerous lesson in that you don't want to overthink how much convincing you need to do, otherwise it might bias what you share and how you frame it. On the other hand, being aware of whether you're sharing information to change minds or simply to provide, quote, the truth, is good to understand because it might affect how deeply you dive and how much interactivity you provide.
And finally, there is the action that you want your audience to take. You're not sharing your content for your mother's approval or for the adulation of the public, maybe a little bit of both of those, but for the most part, you're looking for an action, a reaction from your audience. You need to know what you're looking for, what action you're looking for to design better outcomes. Do you want someone to call their congressman after looking at your visualization? Do you want them to answer a poll question? Do you want them to share it on social? Do you want to inspire them in some other way? If you constantly ask yourself if your design is leading toward this outcome, you're more likely to achieve it.
So, these are all the things you have to understand about your audience when you're creating visualizations for them, but it's more than that. It's not just about understanding, it's about channeling them. It's about really getting inside their head. You don't want to ignore their culture and accessibility issues and all these other things, you want to actually feel their pain. You want to understand it as though you are them. You'll be less likely to be influenced by bias, for instance because you're going to feel their skepticism, their arguments against what you're showing them. It's going to help you articulate more clearly and factually if you can really imagine being them.
Imagine that you are them and you'll communicate more meaningfully.
- Describe the process by which individuals’ interests are incorporated into data visualizations.
- Differentiate the use of the Ws in data visualization.
- Explain techniques involved in defining your narrative when visualizing data.
- Identify the factors that make data visualizations relatable to an audience’s interests and needs.
- Review the appropriate use of charts in data visualizations.
- Define the process involved in applying interactivity to data visualizations.