Skip links

How to tell a Story with data analysis Dashboards (Storytelling)

Storytelling is not a tool that companies use to its full potential; Although an effective strategy, even companies that actively use data for their decision-making don’t rely on storytelling.

To make things worse, only 29% of companies that collect data can effectively translate data analysis into actions. This is mainly due to the fact that organizations use data for insights within their own systems, usually in closed cycles, without the possibility of integration with other tools.

In other words, the data that should be used for innovation becomes rigid and is not used towards achieving real improvements.

This becomes the ideal context for exploring storytelling in the context of data analysis dashboards. This is because there is great potential for this information to be transformed into narratives using different resources for this purpose.

Continue reading this post to understand what storytelling is and how to employ the concept in data analysis dashboards.

What is storytelling?

Storytelling is a technique used to tell stories while making effective use of captivating and engaging narratives.

In marketing, the technique aims to engage the audience and their willingness to engage in content that captivates them. The goal is to develop storylines and narrative formats that can capture the listener’s attention.

You have probably come across an advertisement on social media or YouTube that poked your interest and ended up watching it to the end, precisely because it told a story that caught your attention.

This probably happened because humans have always communicated through stories, from cave paintings to a conversation with a friend who told you about their trip during the holidays.

Both the painting and the story your friend told you have something in common: the ability to capture people’s attention, making them remember the narrative in the future.

The same thing happens with brands or companies that can tell their stories in an engaging way. Mastering this trait  is essential for those who want to stand out and stay in the public’s top-of-mind, while in the context of using data for their decision-making it is equally valuable.

Why use data to tell a story?

Generally speaking, data analysis dashboards are limited to presenting data visually, but are not necessarily good at telling a story on their own. That being said, dashboards can present an engaging narrative that goes beyond the representation of data in an attractive way.

We live in a world where data is present in almost everything. Big Data is an indispensable tool for many organizations that constantly seek ways to use it to achieve a series of objectives.

With so much available information, narratives have proven to be an effective way to present data in a more accessible, assertive, and enjoyable way. The intended audience can absorb it more easily, increasing engagement with this data.

How to use storytelling in data analysis dashboards?

Now we can answer the big question: how can we use data to tell a story? It would be a mistake to think that charts only serve a purpose to present numbers, demographic data, etc.

It is possible to use different resources such as charts, infographics, tables, images, among other tools to construct a coherent narrative. This is because all these tools visually represent signs that are easily understood, and their smart use allows for the presentation of a sequence of facts that reinforce the story being told.


Understand how to develop the strategy:

Define a goal for the storyteller.

It is necessary to define what will be told through the data sequence. The story needs to be clear, relevant, and pique the audience’s interest. To do this, it is essential to clarify the origin of the data and why this data is being presented on screen.

A well-known case was that of the Johns Hopkins University Maryland Hospital, which developed a global-scale data panel to track COVID-19 cases in real time. The team monitored information from around the world and organized it into a public panel with real-time updates.

The panel was used by healthcare providers, government agencies, and media outlets to update and define public policies to combat the virus.

“We were collecting data on a new virus that no one understood at the time when there was not a single webpage dedicated to counting Covid-19 cases,” says Lauren Gardner, project head, associate professor, and co-director of the Systems Center in Engineering and Science at the Johns Hopkins Engineering School.

Follow basic guidelines on how to present data analysis panels

Provide data visibility;

Provide a consistent and shared view of this data to a target audience;

Present an overview of the important metrics for this audience;

And above all, a panel reflects priorities:  that means metrics and data that should favor the goals of the story that is being told.


Planning is the key

It is not possible to build a narrative with random data. In addition to a logical sequence, it is essential to align the story with the needs of the business/organization and the audience, so that it can be guided in a relevant way.

This is something that requires research, persona development, layout studies, and everything else necessary to develop a rich and assertive story to tell.

In this context, it is important to clearly define the following elements:

  • Message: refers to the message that you want to convey to the counterpart;
  • Environment: where the story takes place. It is important to be able to contextualize the narrative so that the audience can connect with the story;
  • Character: the central piece of the story. In this case, it is the focus point of the data that will convey the message;
  • Conflict: any point that will push the audience to feel identified with the story.


Explore infographics

Infographics bring together a series of tools, such as charts, tables, images, texts, with the aim of presenting an overview of an actual event, subject, or point of view. This combination is fundamental for the narrative because it uses different visual resources to convey one or more pieces of information in a simple and clear way.

The key point here is to present a sequence of symbols so that they have a relevant meaning, capable of captivating those who are engaging with the panel.

Did the content you just read interest you and answered your question? You can also read this related post that was prepared by our team. Enjoy!


Looking for more?

Be the first to know

Get first-hand access to our free Design and Dataviz content directly in your inbox

× Reach us on WhatsApp