Let your Dashboards shine

How to use modern Visualizations to make your Reports easily understandable

Photo by Chor Tsang on Unsplash

Besides the typically known diagrams with lines, bars or simple tables many new graphical representation variants are becoming more and more popular. The most popular BI tools such as Google Data Studio, MS Power BI and others already offer most of these or provide them via their community [1]. For the examples below, I used Google Data Studio — you can use it for free [2].

Possibility 1: Simple Text

When you have just a few numbers to present, you can use a simple text to make your statement shine [3].

Simple Text — Image by Author

This allows the audience to focus on the essential KPI. No frills are needed here.

Possibility 2: Customer Reviews

Of course, mainly known from stores like Google or Amazon, this feature can be used especially for ratings. Since everyone knows it, it is easy to interpret for the viewer.

Customer Review — Image by Author

But besides customer reviews, this feature can also be used for other use cases, such as air or water quality — I recently used it for a process quality analysis.

Possibility 3: Tree Maps

A tree map or a tile chart is used to visualize hierarchical structures, which are represented by nested rectangles. In this way, size ratios can be vividly displayed by selecting the area of the rectangles proportionally to the size of the data unit to be displayed.

Treemap Example — Image by Author

Here, I visualized the wholesale purchase of liquor in the State of Iowa by retailers for sale to individuals since January 1, 2012 per category. The example shows once again, how this type of chart is perfectly showing size relationships.

Possibility 4: Gauge Diagram

A gauge diagram can very well represent states, which have different evaluations and are to be clarified with colors. This diagram is based on a simple pie chart. A gauge diagram is particularly well suited for measuring target / actual comparisons for key figures, customer satisfaction or quality measurements.

Gauge Diagram — Image by Author

Here, for example, the sales of a company in relation to the overall average are pictured.

Possibility 5: Sunburst Chart

The Sunburst chart is ideal for displaying hierarchical data. Each level of the hierarchy is indicated by a ring or circle, with the innermost circle representing the top level of the hierarchy. Sunburst diagrams with multiple category levels show how the outer rings relate to the inner rings. The sunburst diagram is particularly useful for showing how a ring is divided into its contributing components, while another type of diagram, the tree map diagram, is particularly useful for comparing relative sizes [4].

Sunburst — Image by Author

Other useful visualization methods:
There are of course other common diagrams which can be used e.g.:

  • Heat Maps
  • Word Clouds
  • Symbol Maps
  • Dendrograms
  • Network Models


With large amounts of data, new challenges for the respective visualization arise. Therefore, different techniques and diagrams are needed than the common used visualizations like tables, bar charts, etc. In the best case, it is possible to create a simple and clear visualization and still not let any information fall under the table. In this article, I showed some examples and a good toolset to start with BigQuery and Data Studio. These new cloud-based technologies are a prerequisite for processing such large amounts of data anyway. I don’t want to say that tried and true graphics are no longer to be used, but for a simpler and clearer presentation the shown tools are certainly useful. In the best case, the methods also simply complement each other, since with a Dashboard, you go from simple KPIs to details anyway. So it’s a good idea to take newer and simpler charts and make the first page clear, for example. If the user then wants to go into more detail, the data can be presented on the following pages of the report in the form of tables or line charts.

Sources and Further Readings

[1]Data Studio, Data Studio reports with Community Visualizations (2021)

[2]Data Studio, Overview (2021)

[3]Cole Nussbaumer, storytelling with data S. 38–39 (2015)

[4]Microsoft, Erstellen eines Sunburst-Diagramms in Office (2021)