The value of human-centric data visualization

What do your consumers really experience?

Traditionally, the humble bar chart has been relied on when sharing consumer research findings. While it can provide insight into behavior, human experience is complex and messy, so it can present limitations when guiding our understanding and decision making.

This is where data visualization comes in. Fast becoming an industry standard – valued at $2.9 billion in 2020 – it can be a powerful tool for sharing insights that deliver value, are heard and truly understood by stakeholders.

Visualizing the emotional impact of someone’s experience requires a holistic framework to capture behavioral insights and translate them into compelling, visual stories. Here are three things to keep in mind when thinking about human-centric data visualization.

1 / Visualizing the “why” requires a deeper level of thinking

Numbers and charts can’t explain the reason participants rank or prioritize answers in surveys. Representing “why” participants behave in visualizations is crucial to building more accurate findings.

Start with widening your lens to understand the consumer’s environment and the measure of their emotional context. Rather than looking to uncover how a consumer’s experience fits into a pre-existing product or service, focus on understanding their holistic experience; based on who they are, their connections and their core decision making factors.

2 / Representation is necessary for relatability

It is challenging to visualize the depth of the human experience without actually representing participants in an accessible and relatable way. Now more than ever, inclusive representation in research is necessary to avoid stereotyping participants, and to open the doors to a new lens on consumer segments. According to Pew Research, Black (58%), Hispanic (55%) and White Americans (61%) say the news media misunderstand them, but their reasoning why is markedly different across the board.

By graphically showcasing participants in frameworks that measure their emotional response to experiential factors, we can deepen our understanding of how participants engage with products and services. A few examples include sharing participant stories with visual archetypal representations, illustrations showing step-by-step what consumers experience, and concept developments.

3 / Human experience is not always linear

When mapping consumer actions and influences it’s easy to assume their decisions are based on a set of pre-determined steps that can tangibly followed. For example, participant ‘X’ predictably decides to research a product before going on a purchase path. Humans typically look for order and logic to understand how others function and make decisions. This makes it easier in a business setting to validate difficult questions and deliver easy to follow recommendations for change.

In reality, 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious. Consumer experiences are tangled up, circular, or webs of relationships. Their subconscious urges can contradict their conscious beliefs, the biggest urge being emotion. While it would be nice to have a consistent clear and linear outline of how to deliver a delightful experience, it’s not realistic. It doesn’t reflect the truth; humans are not always predictable. The most successful experience maps break all the rules and are led by participant triggers, environmental nuance, and relationship influential decisions.

Human-centric visualizations can help to uncover richer insights, galvanise teams to action and develop strategies that lead to profitable growth. Get in touch to find out how we can help.