Using data visualization in WordPress is a great way to enhance your regular text content and better communicate data and concepts with your readers.
If you’re just starting a WordPress blog, then “data visualization” might sound fancy, it’s really just a term for graphically presenting information or data to make it easier for readers to understand ideas, trends, or patterns.
That last part is the most important – it’s not just dumping data on visitors. Instead, it’s using data to tell a story in a visual manner.
In this post, we’ll explain how you can start using data visualization in WordPress by:
Showing you some examples of common data visualization implementations to spark some ideas. Sharing four WordPress data visualization plugins and tools that you can use to start visualizing data without the need for any technical knowledge. Ending with a couple of tips from data visualization experts.
Let’s get started…
Six examples of data visualization in WordPress
In this first section, we’ll show you some achievable examples of how you can apply data visualization in WordPress without needing any special knowledge.
Then, in the next section, you’ll learn about some plugins and tools to help you implement these examples.
Basic charts and graphs (pie, bar, line etc.)
The easiest way to get started with data visualization in WordPress is with some basic charts and graphs. Even just using a pie or bar chart, you can make it a lot easier for your visitors to comprehend the data that you’re sharing with them
For example, this bar chart from Column Five Media makes it easy to see how travel distance stacks up for different NCAA sports. It’s a lot more comprehensible than just sharing that data as a list, right?
- Line graphs are good for showing changes over time for one or more groups.
- Pie charts are best for comparing parts of a whole without changes over time.
- Bar graphs are good for comparing different groups, or showing large changes over time.
- Area graphs are another way to track changes over time for one or more groups.
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Comparison tables are a great way to quickly visualize important differences between different entities.
We use data tables in a lot of our posts to compare different plugins or services to make it easier for readers to find the right tool.
For example, the comparison table in our best password managers post helps visitors quickly see key differences between the password manager tools without forcing them to read paragraphs of text:
Beyond being a popular link building strategy, infographics are also a great way to create entire data visualization stories.
That is, instead of a single chart or graph, infographics usually include multiple data visualization methods that all flow together to communicate information.
For example, our WordPress hosting infographic uses various gauges and icons to tell a story about WordPress hosting.
See it here:
Timeline with events
A timeline with events combines a line or area chart with specific events. The idea is that you’re able to not just communicate changes over time, but also mark the key events that led to those changes.
For example, look at how this data visualization from Anthropocene Magazine connects key events with changes in CO2 emissions:
A pictorial combines a graphic with chart data. It’s essentially enhancing data that could otherwise be communicated with a simpler chart by adding an image or icon that connects to the story.
Maps are a great way to communicate data about specific locations.
One popular way to show the density of data with respect to geographic locations is a bubble map chart.
For example, this bubble map quickly communicates the density of meteor strikes around the world:
Another way to visualize geographic data is with a choropleth map. With this type of visualization, each geographic area is shaded according to a color key (I guarantee you’ve seen this – you just might not know it by its name!).
Choropleth maps are good for showing proportions, rather than total values like the bubble map example above.
For example, this choropleth map from UC Davis quickly shows the poverty percentage by US state:
If you want some more inspiration for data visualization in WordPress, Data Viz Project is an awesome website that showcases a variety of more niche data visualization approaches, like histograms and butterfly charts.
Four data visualization WordPress plugins and tools to help you get started
Now for the next question – how can you actually apply those data visualization examples to your WordPress site?
Here are some data visualization plugins and tools that you can use to help your site’s visitors comprehend data…
Visualizer is a WordPress data visualization plugin that helps you create a variety of tables, charts, and graphs from inside your WordPress dashboard.
It comes with 12 different responsive and interactive charts and graphs, including everything from simple line and pie charts to more advanced implementations like geo maps and scatter plots:
You can either add your data directly into WordPress using an Excel-like interface. Or, you can import from Google Sheets or a CSV, including an option to automatically sync data to keep your charts and graphs constantly updated.
Visualizer is a great option if you’re looking for a way to include interactive charts and graphs as part of your existing WordPress content, rather than, say, creating a standalone infographic image that can be embedded elsewhere.
Visualizer has a limited free version at WordPress.org. After that, paid plans start at $59, though you’ll need the $149 Developer plan if you want to automatically sync your charts and graphs to keep them updated.
Adioma is a cloud-based tool that helps you create infographics.
Whereas Visualizer is more about helping you display to-the-point charts and graphs, Adioma gives you a little more design flexibility to create a custom-looking infographic to display your data, though you have less flexibility when it comes to the actual charts and graphs.
Here’s an example of the type of infographic that you can create with Adioma – notice how it’s a little more focused on icons and visualizing connections/timelines rather than hard data:
Adioma offers a seven day free trial. After that, plans start at $39 per month.
Infogram sits in between Visualizer and Adioma. Like Adioma, it’s a cloud tool that offers a graphic builder interface to help you create infographics.
However, it also goes a lot further than Adioma when it comes to embedding charts and maps into your infographics, with the option to insert 35+ charts and 550+ map types, including the ability to edit your data right in the Infogram editor (or connect to external sources like Google Sheets or a CSV):
As such, Infogram makes a good option if you want to combine charts/maps with a Canva-like editor for text and pictures.
Infogram has a limited free plan. After that, paid plans start at $19.
Datawrapper is a visualization tool that targets itself towards journalists looking for ways to visualize the data in their reporting. It’s used by journalists at big-name publications like Bloomberg and Fortune.
And while that’s what’s on the marketing copy, you definitely don’t need to be a journalist to benefit from this tool, and it’s easy to use the charts that you create on your WordPress site.
Datawrapper can help you create the basics like bar, pie, and area charts. But I think where this tool really excels is in some of the more niche data visualization options it offers.
For example, the Locator map lets you create really interesting visualizations for physical location points:
Similarly, the symbol map makes a great option to highlight density in specific areas:
Datawrapper lets you create one chart/map per month for free. After that, paid plans start at 29€/month.
Two quick tips to help with data visualization in WordPress
Before we finish out our guide to data visualization in WordPress, let’s run through some quick tips on how to effectively use the data visualization tools above.
Think about the message first
When you use data visualization in WordPress, it’s easy to get overly focused on the design of your chart or infographic. While design certainly does matter, it shouldn’t be your first focus when visualizing data.
As Alberto Cairo of the Cairo data visualization studio explains:
So remember – the message and story comes first. The design is just there to support that message.
Less is more
Another temptation is to throw as much data as possible at your visitors. After all, if some data is good, more data must be better, right?
Remember, you’re trying to tell a story, not dump data on people. Keep your data as simple as possible to accurately tell the story you want to communicate.
As Garr Reynolds, the author of Presentation Zen, explains:
Start using data visualization in WordPress today!
I think this is where I’m supposed to say something about a picture being worth a thousand words.
Well, I confess I don’t know the exact exchange rate between pictures and words, but I can say that smartly using data visualization in WordPress can help you tell stories and convey meaning more effectively than words alone.
I tried to share some of the most effective, easiest-to-apply data visualization techniques for WordPress users, as well as tools, plugins, and tips to help you get started with data visualization in WordPress.
To get your feet wet, you can start with using the Visualizer plugin to create charts and graphs right from your WordPress dashboard. Once you get the hang of things, you can start using the other tools to create infographics, more advanced location maps, and a whole lot more.
Do you have any questions about using data visualization in WordPress? Ask away in the comments!
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