When you want to show location information within your data, a map is an easy decision for data visualization. Map charts show how data distributes across a specific region. Regions can be as large as the globe or as small as a single county. Data can be displayed on the map with markers or charts identifying numerical values for a single area. Often, data dynamically adjusts as users zoom in and out on the map.
To build a map chart, you will need at least two columns of data. The first column will contain the name of the state, province, or prefecture. The other column will contain the values for each region. Once displayed, the values will be represented by varying shades of color in each region. Each shade will correspond to a specific range of values. Or, the values can be represented as markers with numerical values layered on top of the chart.
A map chart is helpful when geographic context in your data is important. You can use it to compare how data in one region stacks up against another. Maps can be as simple as markers identifying store locations. Or, some tools allow you to layer on data and display categories of information across regions that will automatically adjust as a user zooms in and out on areas of the map.
How a Map Can Answer Business Questions
A map chart will allow you to visualize data distribution across a region in a clear and easy-to-interpret manner. With data shown geographically, you can easily spot top-performing areas and compare them to the lowest performers. You will also be able to spot trends and identify outliers intuitively.
Use a map chart to answer questions like, “Where is our new growth coming from?”. By calculating each region of global sales and its percentage increase over the past year, you will be able to use a map chart with shaded distribution to identify the fastest-growing areas quickly.
Maps can also help answer questions such as, “Are manufacturing plants following safety precautions?”. You can chart the number of accidents reported at each plant and quickly identify any outliers of plants with high accident rates. Add deeper insight into the data with a pie chart showing clustered information. You can compare accidents, safety write-ups, and OSHA violations for each location. The map can help indicate to your team whether or not more training on safety processes is needed.
Common Business Scenarios for Using a Map
You can use maps to help inform business decisions for a wide range of use cases across departments, including:
Store location. One of the most common and basic maps shows store locations. Use a map chart with markers to identify the location of stores. Add another layer with data comparing store visitors and capacity across the different data locations.
Employee demographics. Use a map chart to show where employees live. Use an additional layer to include a donut chart breaking down simple demographics about employees in each area.
Track case counts. Visualize the spread of a virus or other contagious condition by showing case counts as markers across different regions. The map will help target regions with higher numbers and identify contagion clusters.
Identify market opportunities. Use a map chart to compare different market regions. Chart things like sales revenue, marketing spend, and resource investment to see where you’re getting the greatest ROI.
Update supply chain. Show how much inventory is available at each store. A map chart will be able to show you areas with too much or too little inventory available. Add additional categorical data like revenue predictions to help with inventory planning.
Using a Map in a Dashboard
While maps are great at showing geographic distribution of your data, they can’t always make it easy to compare parts of your data to a whole or show trends. Consider pairing a map with other chart types on your dashboard to convey additional data information.
For example, use a map to show the geographic distribution of employees at each store. Then, use a pie chart to show which stores had the highest percentage of revenue. Add a grouped bar chart to compare store revenue with employee count.
There are also different map charting tools and techniques to consider when choosing how to display your data. Consider the following:
Markers. Chart data with icons showing different locations. These markers can also include numerical values for different areas.
Pie or donut clusters. If you want to compare different categories of data across a region, you can use an additional layer to include a pie or donut chart in each area.
Distribution. A map chart can use shaded areas to show how data is distributed across different regions. Darker areas represent a greater concentration in values.
Boundaries. Use a map to identify boundaries like sales territories or different geographical market segments.
Bubbles. Mark areas with bubbles. Larger bubbles represent higher values.
Best Practices for Using a Map
There are some key points to consider when utilizing a map to visualize your metrics.
Don’t Always Use Red.
It can be tempting when using a map to visualize vital information to choose a bright, bold color like red. However, there are many other colors besides red, and it is frequently overused. Consider what you’re trying to do with your map chart. Do you want to scare readers, or would you prefer to inform them? Bright colors like yellow and orange are still eye-catching without invoking alarmist feelings for your readers.
Focus on the Right Region.
It may seem easiest to use a world map to show data all in one picture. But does the information you’re trying to convey in your chart need to have such a broad focus? Sometimes it is good to consider including only the most impactful regions or where data is most concentrated. It can help reduce confusion from including too many data points in one view.
Tell a Story.
A map with too many data points on it is overwhelming for readers, and instead of increasing understanding, can make data even more unreadable. Work with your data so your map shows a straightforward story. Ensure every layer adds value to your map without adding confusion. Avoid using multiple colors, and make certain that there are not too many data labels when a reader scrolls out on the map.
Maps are a great data visualization tool to add to reports and dashboards. Use them to help readers understand the geographical impact of your datasets. To learn more about other charts and data visualization techniques, talk to a Domo expert today.
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