Art of the Possible #6: Visual Analysis

Chris Wood Associates

This is the sixth entry from Chris Wood in the "Art of the Possible: Technology and Tools for Improved Monitoring and Evaluation" blog series, which covers design, data collection, databases, analysis, and using your results. All articles cover the use of technology, the options available and how to decide on the best approach for your projects. This article explores alternative ways to present your M&E results.

How bored do you get looking at tables of numbers or bar charts? Imagine your stakeholders, what will grab their attention most?

Typical M&E analyses are presented as textual document describing the results, a table of values with analysed data, or simple charts representing the data. In most cases, these representations lose the context and meaning and lack impact.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Maps

If your project operates across several geographies, or contains location information it may be possible to add your data to a map. However, you will need to consider how you will collect the location data.

  • Positional coordinates or latitude and longitude can be collected by mobile applications using the GPS functions of the device when the survey is completed.
  • A physical address or postcode can also be used as long as it has enough information for the geocoding systems to identify the location. Geocoding is the term used to describe the process of converting a postal address into the longitude and latitude coordinates required for a map

Advantages

  • Visually represent geographic or spatial data
  • Quickly identify hot spots or regions of concern

Challenges

  • The location data must be accurate
  • The function of geocoding postal addresses is resource intensive and many countries and regions have not been coded
  • Mapping each beneficiary quickly overloads the map. Consider grouping data.

Design considerations

  • Make sure that your data can be mapped.
  • Make sure the mapping solution covers the regions you need
  • Consider how to represent your data on the map.
    • A pin or marker for each location in the data.
    • Use “heat maps” or marker size to represent a spread of locations or volumes.

Possible solutions

Ushahidi – Open source. Can upload a data file

Google Docs - Map Chart. Free. Only provides mapping at a country level.

Leaflet – leafletjs.com – Open source. Requires coding

BatchGeo - batchgeo.com - Free and very simple to use. Can be slow

ArcGIS - www.arcgis.com/home

Google Maps API - developers.google.com/maps. Requires coding
 

Infographics

A really eye-catching and engaging way to tell your story is to use pictures. Convert your boring charts and headline numbers into a single picture or analyse your textual feedback for common words and create a word cloud.

Infographics offer ways to portray information that simple charts cannot. They allow different data sets to be combined into a single image.

Infographics can display a chart from a single data set, an analysis conclusion or can be a collection of visual images which combine to tell the story of the program

Advantages

  • Complex data can be presented in eye-catching ways
  • Publish as a poster, a web site, or a single page overview
  • Add images to personalise and reinforce the story
  • The picture will be understood by anyone and can be “read” in different languages. The pictures replace words

Challenges

  • Creating an infographic is an “art” blending data analysis with graphic design
  • Data must be robust and sufficient to back your claims
  • Check that the focus, language and images are appropriate for the intended audience. If the graphic was viewed by others, would they be offended?

Design considerations

  • Use clear and unambiguous figures to represent the key points from your analysis
  • A timeline or the delivery process guides the reader from the headline to the supporting evidence and a conclusion.  The arc of the story.
  • Have a key message within the graphic that you want your reader to leave with

Explore dailyinfographic.com and www.good.is/infographics for examples of infographics

Possible solutions

Online infographic tools

Piktochart www.piktochart.com

Easel.ly - www.easel.ly

Infogr.am - www.infogr.am

Visual.ly - www.visual.ly

Online word cloud generators

Word clouds for kids - www.abcya.com

Tagul - tagul.com

Wordle - www.wordle.net

Microsoft Powerpoint can also be used, but requires knowledge of advanced features to create the effects you want.

Summary

  • Data is presented in easy-to-understand visual formats
  • A minimum of words means that the graphics can be “read” by anyone
  • Graphics can be used in a variety of formats and for different purposes
  • Colours and images can reinforce your program brand
  • Can be free, but good design skills will be required

goProve (www.goprove.org )is a M&E solution which offers integrated analysis and visual displays to present your data graphically.