User experience, the key to data visualisation

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On 6 June, experts in data visualisation, data analysis and Big Data took part in the round table discussion entitled “Data storytelling”, organised by the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences as part of the new Master’s Degree in Big Data Science. 

User experience, the key to data visualisation

Axel Gasulla, co-founder of Domestic Data Streamers; Òscar Puigdollers, head of the Unit of Studies and R+D+i for Barcelona at Serveis Municipals, S.A.; Alberto González, data scientist at Bestiario; and Ferran García, partner enablement manager and value architect at QLik, were invited to offer their perspective on data visualisation in an event moderated by Carlos Cosials, director of the Master’s Degree in Big Data Science.

During the round table, the participants responded to topics such as: the relevance of visualisation in digital projects; visualisation as an art; and how to include user experience in visualisation design and data analysis.

According to Axel Gasulla, “99% of information is created and understood in a 100% digital environment. We, on the other hand, understand the physical world. The digital terrain is therefore the best for understanding data digitally and transmitting it experientially. The challenge facing data visualisation is identical to the one that once faced engineering: bringing a technical reality in line with human reality”. Gasulla discussed some of the projects undertaken by Domestic Data Streamers in which the aim was to focus on humans, on their experience, and which used resources such as cooking to help them understand data in a natural manner.

Óscar Puigdollers went on to add that, “Visualisation must be approached logically. In this sense storytelling is crucial”. Puigdollers explained that, in his experience, the key to correctly displaying data is to take the user as a starting point, “otherwise users become overwhelmed by data and don’t know what to do with it”. In this regard, he named video games as one of the sources of inspiration for his work.

According to Ferran García, the power of data lies not in possessing it, but in the value it brings to the decision-making process in large organisations. “We must ensure that data reaches non-expert users so that they can make decisions”. To him, data visualisation is more a “process that an art”. He also pointed out that, “graphics are the building blocks of data storytelling”.

Lastly, Alberto González presented some of the projects Bestiario has put together for various entities. “Data is abstract. Visualisation helps make it less so”. González explained that, when it comes to displaying data, he draws inspiration from subjects of nature. “Biology and medicine are of great help when it comes to visualisation”. He also recommended that anthropology be taken into account, a science that, in his opinion, has been overlooked. To display data correctly, it is important to “take into account people’s behaviour”.