Data visualization, more often than not, is touted as the easiest task of data analytics as in this stage, all the data engineering activities such as data cleaning, extraction, transformation, loading, harmonization etc. are done; and the cleaned data is hosted on data-lake for insight generation. This thought process, however, could be a hoax as the this is the content which is the upper tip of the iceberg i.e. no matter how much hard work may have gone to collect, process & transform data; if it doesn’t look good – then the chances of the project getting rejected is high.
Hence, businesses generally put in a lot of focus in data visualization, as the hard work put in all of the previous stages ultimately culminates in the design and orchestration of the report being designed and delivered. With this backdrop, the next sections would discuss on the key tools & technology used for data visualization; and a logical comparison amongst them.
What are the different tools & techniques used for data visualization?
There are a multitude of visualization tools which are available in the market – each catering to certain business cases and bring invariably preferred in different domains & industry verticals. For example – businesses operating in the banking & financial services sector tend to put in a lot of emphasis on SAS as a statistical analysis & visualization tool. The same way, other product businesses & e-commerce companies tend to opt for Tableau, QlikView, PowerBI etc. tools for effective front-end visualizations.
So, taking all of these possibilities into viewpoint, a few of the most frequently used and preferred tools for visualizations are mentioned below –
- D3 – D3, acronym for ‘Data Driven Documents’; is one of the most powerful tool in terms of the volume & variety of data that it can handle. Generally, D3 is used as a front-end visualization tool for large data systems such as Teradata
- Vega – Also known as ‘Visualization Grammar’; Vega provides an extensive set of libraries and mapping APIs which can be used by developers to map diverse datasets to showcase interactive graphics. An indicative list of possible designs enabled by Vega are shown below –
- PowerBI – Being a Microsoft product, PowerBI provides extremely extensive & rich features while retaining the simplicity of Excel. The tool extensively used in business organizations can connect to more than hundreds of data sources, transform data instantly, and provide rich visualization in no time. PowerBI exists in both desktop as well as web version – and the reports/dashboard built on it can be published as a service to end users
- Tableau – Another frequently used visualization tool by business organizations, Tableau provides a rich platform to users to create interactive dashboards & reports; and distribute via publishing them. Like PowerBI, Tableau also has a desktop version which can be used to work on standalone applications
- FineReport – This is a Java based tool which is used for reporting for enterprise projects. This tool doesn’t require users to write a single line of code; and users can perform all steps from data entry to visualization using this tool itself.
What should be the governing factors for selection of a visualization tool?
Although there are multiple visualization tools available in the market; there is no ‘one size suits all’ approach which is applicable here as different tools and technology have their own pros and cons. Still, a few of the factors which should be considered before choosing a visualization tool –
- Intended stakeholders or users of the visualization – and the technical skill level of those users
- Existing technical infrastructure of the business specifically data infrastructure
- Volume of data that currently resides in the systems
- Levels of business customers i.e. whether the visualization would be directly catering to executive class; or whether there are any mid-level managers as well.