There are a few phrases I find cropping up regularly in the office that I think are useful and I’d like to share with you:
“Great answers breed even better questions”
This is the power of iterative analytics; the results of the analytical process provokes more refined, more targeted questions from the users. I *love* this stage, when the person whose data it is sees something in the data they never saw before and that prompts an even better question to go and make the data answer. Absolutely fascinating and rewarding to witness, every time.
“You design. We build”
You may not believe this, but not everybody revels in the prospect of playing with data all day every day. That means that there will be plenty of times when you’re designing visualisations for other people, using their data to provide insight, helping to answer their questions. In these situations it is useful to think of the exercise in the above terms. The design of the dashboard must be theirs. They will let you know how their data is most likely to make sense to them. Your role is to offer some guidance or show alternatives but never to dictate the result. If they have designed it, they will understand it, own it, use it and value it. Isn’t that what you want too?
“Easy is hard”
I take no credit for this one. Pat Hanrahan of Tableau used it in one of his presentations and I like it for two reasons. Firstly, it’s almost self referencing. Try and think of three little words that resonate with meaning (thank you, I love you too!). Secondly, and more importantly, it captures neatly one of the technical challenges of data visualisation, that of burying and hiding all the hard work of data wrangling, manipulation, calculated fields, blends, ETL processes etc so that all that remains is light, simple and accessible.