Six Steps to a Customized Visualization

Where should I start? How do I start? Which tool do I need to learn? Such and other questions might occupy you. From our experience people spend far too many hours to search for reasons why they cannot do a visualization, why it could be too expensive, why it could fail and so on instead of just starting. A rule of thumb for a good visualization is a visualization that has been started AND finished. The following steps give orientation.
Step 1:
Analyze the Context

Know the Decision Makers, Budget and Time! For a successful knowledge transfer different questions need to be answered: Who is the audience? What are the cultural, functional, or educational backgrounds of the recipients? Why is the information relevant to the individual recipients? Is the audience interested in an overview or in details? What are strategies to overcome the limited capacities of the listeners, such as limited time, attention, or mental capacity? 
Step 2: Analyze the Problem

Know the problem better than your customer!
Before you start develop a solution try to understand the problem in detail. This point is often the most difficult part in a knowledge visualization project. Often the customer himself does not know exactely what the problem is all about. Is it really a problem or just a nice-to-have? What happens if we do not solve the problem? Step 3: Discuss Potential Solutions

Have a set of five visualization approaches that could work!
When you understand your problem in detail, try to develop at least five very different potential solutions. Then discuss your sketched ideas in your team or with peers. What are the individual strength of the different solutions? What is doable? How can the ideas be sharpened? What is new? What is fresh? Think all the way to the end: If you imagine that you have implemented the approach, is the problem solved? What happens if something needs to be changed after a year? If in the process of creating the visualization is it possible that some changes might occur? Try to discuss the pros and cons of the different solutions in detail. Then you will find out, which approach is the most promising approach. Step 4: Implement a Prototype

Just do it, but only in a 80pct quality!
Try to first implement a prototype where you can test the functionality of the final approach. Next, you should start to implement the idea in a 80 percent quality. Try to test things where you are a bit skeptical. Step 5: Test and discuss the Prototype with the target audience

When you have implemented your prototype show it to different persons, that have not been involved in the creation of the visualization. Show it to proponents from your target audience. What do they like? What do they dislike? Take all negative critics very seriously. Try to understand the underlying arguments or emotional problems.

Step 6: Finalize the solution and Learn from Failures

When you have finished the final solution, don't forget to keep evaluating and incorporating feedback .

These six steps should give you orientation. But the most important recommendation is, that you should just try it and start. You don't need to wait for a tool, you need to use your brain and a pencil to sketch the prototype.

Last modified: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 4:11 PM