Look, I’m going to tell you a secret.
There is really only one true way to become a better data visualization expert…
I get asked a lot for tips on finding interesting things to visualize and the process I use to create my charts and other visualizations. And yes, I am certainly full of tips when asked.
But no single tip or piece of software can replace good old fashioned experience. And good old fashioned experience comes from practice.
So I decided to start a series where we practice data visualization together.
Let’s get started.
I want you to play around with Google Trends and find something interesting. Then turn that interesting thing into a simple infographic.
That’s what I did in creating the chart above. Here are the steps.
Exploring Data in Google Trends
So Google Trends is a free tool where you can compare the popularity of different Google search terms. You can search all the way back to 2004.
The data shows interest over time, which Google defines like this:
Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.
I find the most interesting things come from comparing two or more search terms. If one is way more popular than the other, you’ll get a pretty lame chart. But if the two are fairly close, you can find some interesting connections.
As a Tableau developer who hangs around with a bunch of Salesforce people, the acquisition of Salesforce by Tableau has been an interest of mine.
So I pulled the two into Google trends to chart the interest over time. I think the flip in 2016 between the popularity of the two search terms is a bit telling. While Salesforce shows slow and steady growth, Tableau shows more of a hockey stick.
I encourage you to ask your own questions though. What other interesting things can you find in Google Trends?
Pulling the Data from Google Trends to Excel
So we could just use the Google Trends chart and embed it, but what fun is that? Let’s go ahead and download the data (which Google gives to us in a CSV after a single download click).
And now let’s go ahead and turn that into a simple line chart in Excel.
Okay, so at this point most people just start clicking around in Excel trying to get this chart looking passable. And yeah, we could certainly do that. But let’s try something different.
Cleaning the chart in Adobe XD
So if you don’t have Adobe XD on your computer, you can get it for FREE on both PC or Mac with the XD Starter Plan. This is one of those unlimited free plans that keeps the bulk of the features available (with only the collaboration features really missing).
But it has plenty of firepower for your infographic and data visualization needs.
You start with an artboard. I just went with the Web 1920 default. The tool is vector and you can create multiple artboards within a single file so don’t overthink this step.
Once you have the artboard you can simply copy and paste the chart from Excel straight into XD.
When you click on the chart (which is currently super ugly) you’ll notice folders on the left. Essentially all the components are layers!
I went ahead and isolated only the two lines from the line chart. It just took a little bit of clicking around to find them. Once found, I can get rid of everything else for the moment.
We can rebuild it, better than before.
And now, with the help of a simple 6 column grid I set out rebuilding my chart. This time designed to tell a simple visual story. I get to change colors around, resize the lines, add a few annotations, and put in some footnotes.
Then poof, we are finished. Now it’s ready to export into a PNG and share around the web. Or in this case, share with you.
What did you find?
It’s more fun to practice with your own discoveries. Did you learn anything new and worth sharing? If so I would love to see.