Are you asking the right questions?

How was the game last night?  Depending on who you ask, the responses will vary. The person in box seating may say they had the time of their life. The person in the nosebleed section may say they couldn’t see anything.  The person behind the tall guy with the big hat may say it was awful. Everyone is talking about the same event with a different perspective.  So how does your data product tell the story?

As a data producer, your product needs to start with your audience in mind. Who are the data consumers and what do they already know? Often times there will be multiple audiences with varying roles and positions utilizing the same data product. Take for instance the marketing analyst who needs to dig around in the nitty-gritty details and find the underlying reasons, details and insights. Another user, like the CMO, is extremely busy and needs to see top-level metrics that are simple and clear.

So what’s the secret for designing a data product that speaks to multiple audiences? Ask the right questions! Good questions and knowing your audience will inform the structure and design of your data products. Picture your audience. Think about the role they play in the organization. Envision their workflow at the office. Get a feel for the competency your audience will have with data, numbers and your industry lingo. By using these characteristics you can derive the right questions.

The chart illustrates the logic behind well designed data products for multiple audiences.

So does that get put into practice?

Every day we see data products that consider the audience - or not. Do you ever look at the forecast to see if you need an umbrella that day? When you check a weather source, you may be hit with a 5 day or 10 day outlook, with several data points on sunrise, sunset, dew point, humidity level.  You get the picture. But you really just need to know if there is a chance of rain! So checking a site like may do the best job for its audience.

The authors of this data product knew exactly what their audience was after and they get right to the point.

Now you are on your way to designing the kind of data products that effectively communicate company data and generate meaningful dialogue all the way through the company!

Find out more on effective data visualization from our book, Data Fluency.

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Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Wiley, from Data Fluency: Empowering Your Organization with Effective Data Communication by Zach Gemignani, Chris Gemignani, Richard Galentino, Patrick Schuermann.  Copyright © 2014.