Organizations are generating and consuming data at an astounding rate. The total volume of data and information worldwide rose from approximately 2 Zettabytes (ZB) in 2010 to 74 ZB in 2021, according to online data service Statistica, which predicts that number will grow to 149 ZB by 2024.
With organizations awash in data, there’s a growing need to make it digestible, understandable and actionable for humans and not just computers. Data visualization software takes data and turns it into images that can communicate concepts and ideas and in a way that words and numbers alone cannot.
What Is a Data Visualization Tool?
Data visualization tools let users find key insights in data and display them in visual form. The practice involves pulling data from a database and creating dashboards and graphics like pie charts, bar charts, scatter plots, polar area diagrams, heat maps, timelines, ring charts, matrix charts and word clouds, to name a few.
By representing myriad data points graphically it’s possible to peer deeper into important numbers, trends, metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Not surprisingly, data visualization tools have moved from the domain of data scientists and IT departments and into the hands of business users. Organizations are now using visualization software to better understand such varied scenarios as customer sentiment and behavior, real-time sales, healthcare trends, departmental goals and market research. In addition, advertisers and media organizations use it to generate eye-catching graphics and infographics and display complex information in simple visuals.
Of course, different data visualization tools approach the task differently. Some lean toward more conventional Business Intelligence (BI) functions while others plug in live data from social media and various applications across an organization. Some also incorporate Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) to deliver more advanced functionality and insights. Most data visualization packages include templates and connectors for building robust models, graphics and dashboards.
If you’re in the market for the best data visualization software, take the time to understand what various vendors and applications offer, how they work and whether they’re able to accommodate your organization’s data visualization needs and budget.
How To Select The Best Data Visualization Software
When selecting a data visualization tool, it’s important to focus on several factors to narrow down the options.
- What type of visualizations do you require? Different tools provide different ways to aggregate and view data. Make sure you can easily connect to and input the data you require. Most of these packages come with a robust set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for ingesting data.
- What type of platform does the software run on and what devices does it support? Some solutions are cloud-based, while others reside on desktop or mobile devices. Some vendors that support an on-premises model have applications that run only on Windows, which can present problems if you have teams using Macs. Make sure the software will work for you.
- Does the package adequately support your organization’s performance requirements? Some applications encounter difficulties with extremely large files, for example, while others don’t perform well in different situations. If the rendering engine can’t support the speed required for web pages and real-time dashboards that meet your own needs, you may have a problem.
- Does the application integrate with your workflows? Flexibility and scalability are often crucial. You may need to change templates, inputs or criteria from time to time—including other programs and platforms connected through APIs. Make sure the data visualization tool can support these changes.
- What does vendor support look like? An application may produce stunning visualizations, but building them can be difficult. If you’ll need help, will your vendor provide it? Make sure a vendor offers solid documentation and support, including videos and tutorials, and check on whether the vendor offers 24×7 phone support if you get bogged down.
- What does the package cost? Some solutions are free—Google Data Studio, for example—but may not deliver the features you need. Others may lock you into a specific cloud provider. Most vendors offer tiered pricing, including an enterprise option; review the choices carefully to find the ones that best align with your budget.
- What security protections does the solution offer? Cybersecurity is critical part of almost every aspect of computing these days. Make sure that any platform you’re considering provides adequate protections for accessing, securing and sharing data.
The Best Data Visualization Tools: Comparison Table
|Data Visualization Software||Pros||Cons|
|Google Data Studio||
10 Top Data Visualization Tools and Software
- Google Data Studio
- Qlik Sense
- Zoho Analytics
See more: What is Data Visualization?
The cloud-based business analytics platform databox generates data visualizations in real-time by pulling data from a wide variety of sources, including Google Analytics, Salesforce, HubSpot, Facebook, Mixpanel and Shopify. Databox offers more than 200 built-in dashboard templates, a robust set of APIs, metrics calculators, and mobile apps for viewing data visualizations. The vendor offers a tiered pricing model.
- Innovative features including looped data boards, scheduled snapshots and annotations
- More than 70 one-click integrations with data services
- More than 200 pre-built reports
- Intuitive interface and highly flexible visualizations
- Subpar integrations lead to inaccurate data and visualizations, according to some users
- Limited customization for reports
- Frequent bugs and crashes, according to users
Google Data Studio
Cloud-based Google Data Studio incorporates interactive dashboards and automated reporting and imports data from multiple sources, including Google Analytics, Google Ads and spreadsheets. It also integrates with more than 150 other cloud, SQL, e‑commerce and digital advertising platforms. Google Data Studio supports a wide array of data visualizations, including time series, bar charts, pie charts, tables, heat maps, geo maps, scorecards, scatter charts, bullet charts and area charts.
- Drag-and-drop interface doesn’t require coding skills or heavy technical knowledge
- Strong collaboration features
- Shareable dashboards
- Built in tool for calculating metrics and formulas
- Highly customizable
- Can be difficult to integrate with non-Google platforms
- Confusing functions, difficult to use
- Frequent bugs and crashes and subpar customer support, according to users
iDashboards “strives for real-time operational intelligence through rich visualization capabilities,” and combines data from upwards of 160 sources, offers hundreds of chart and design options, and builds dashboards that work on nearly any device. It also can use real-time data feeds to embed graphics and dashboard visualizations, which makes it possible to build dashboards for different organizational roles while supporting websites and mobile apps.
- Straightforward and easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface
- Pulls data from almost any source; comes with nearly 300 connectors, including all major cloud and application platforms
- Generates extremely rich data visualizations
- Highly flexible and customizable
- Pricing is attractive, particularly for SMBs
- Can be difficult to set up and configure
- Number of design options can be daunting to new users
- Some users have problems connecting to or importing very large source files
- Some premium features require additional licensing and costs
Infogram is a cloud-based marketing and media tool that supports more than 35 types of interactive data visualization formats, including infographics, reports, dashboards, maps and charts, as well as social media assets for such sites as Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. It provides a drag-and-drop interface, real-time collaboration and the ability to publish online. There’s a basic free version as well as four other tiers for creatives, SMBs and large enterprises.
- Large and varied collection of designer templates, including interactive charts, maps and animations
- Intuitive and easy to use interface
- Integrates well with Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox
- Powerful and elegant collaboration features for teams
- Free plan doesn’t allow customizations and file downloads to systems and devices
- More advanced features and plans can be pricey
- Some users report bugs and crashes
- No ability to work on projects offline
Qlik Sense is a self-service data analytics platform designed for a broad array of users, including executives, decision-makers and analysts. Available as both on-premise or cloud software, it provides drag-and-drop functionality and connects to numerous data sources, including Snowflake and other leading products. Qlik Sense generates a varied array of data visualizations through interactive dashboards, and the application includes an open API and toolsets.
- Powerful features and tools for building complex data visualizations from nearly any data source or set
- AI-based Smart Search feature helps users uncover data relationships
- Uses AI/ML for enhanced insights
- Real-time analytics and data visualization
- Excellent mobile device functionality
- Learning curve can be steep
- Requires some technical knowledge to use the software effectively
- Customizations can challenge some users
- Can be expensive, especially with add-ons
The AI-powered Sisense analytics platform uses a robust set of APIs to generate data visualizations and actionable analytics. Available both in the cloud or on-premises, Sisense is highly customizable and includes data connectors for most major services including Snowflake, Salesforce, Adobe Analytics, Amazon S3, Dropbox, Facebook and numerous Microsoft applications. It’s suitable for use by non-data scientists and line-of-business users.
- Powerful features and fast and rich visualizations
- Intuitive user interface
- Customizable and flexible
- Generates reports and visualizations using natural language and other AI
- Highly rated customer support
- Slow performance with heavy data loads, according to some users
- Documentation is lacking, particularly surrounding widgets, and can be difficult to understand according to some users
Popular business intelligence platform Tableau works with a broad array of data sources and services from spreadsheets and conventional databases to Hadoop and cloud data repositories. It features smart dashboards and a highly interactive interface that lets users drag and drop elements, manipulate and combine data and views, and display data in numerous formats. Tableau includes robust sharing features.
- Fast and powerful
- Well-designed interface
- Consistently ranked as a leader by Gartner and others
- Supports all major platforms and works on almost any device
- Connects to hundreds of data sources and supports all major data formats
- Mixed reviews about customer support
- May require training to use the full set of features and capabilities on the platform
- Difficult to customize
- Lacks some important security controls
Visme is focused on creating visual brand experiences and other content, including flyers, emails, reports, e-books, embedded videos, animations and social media graphics. It incorporates a drag-and-drop interface and pulls data from numerous sources to generate illustrations, infographics, presentations and more. Visme offers a basic free service and tiered plans.
- Thousands of templates for infographics, presentations, charts, maps, documents and more
- Integrations with Slack, YouTube, Vimeo, Dropbox, Google Drive, SurveyMonkey, Mailchimp, Google Maps and many other products and services
- Strong collaboration features
- Excellent tutorials and other learning materials
- Highly rated customer support
- Some user complaints about graphics being frequently reused by different companies and websites
- Can be challenging to learn
- Interface can be slow and confusing
- Some complaints about frequent bugs
- Only more expensive plans have key privacy settings
Whatagraph is designed to handle performance monitoring and reporting, and marketing professionals use it to visualize data and build cross-channel reports. The application offers a variety of pre-designed templates and widgets and offers APIs for connecting numerous data sources, including Google Analytics, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, HubSpot, Amazon Advertising and more.
- Excellent features and support for social media and marketing
- Built in integrations for more than 30 data sources
- Powerful cross-channel data integration and monitoring
- Automated features for sending reports
- Not highly customizable
- Cross-channel integrations can be complex and require considerable time to set up
- Some user complaints about the speed of the application
- Some complaints about subpar customer support
The self-service BI and data analytics software is designed to ingest large volumes of raw data and transform it into actionable visuals and reports via dashboards. It is available in both on-premises and cloud versions. The platform can pull data from numerous sources, including Google Analytics, Mailchimp, YouTube, Salesforce and Twitter. It offers a tiered pricing model.
- More than 500 data connectors
- Strong collaborative features with security protections
- AI-based augmented analytics that let users create data visualizations using natural language
- Interface is not user-friendly or as intuitive as some users would like
- Can be slow to generate data visualization with very large data sets
- Features and support for mobile platforms and devices sometimes lacking
- Lacks flexibility, particularly in regard to changing reports, according to reviews
See more: Best Data Quality Tools & Software 2021
Bottom Line: Data Visualization Tools
As data visualization tools become increasingly available to business users in all fields, they open up possibilities for organizations to share complex data and communicate difficult ideas in clear and interesting graphical representations. The best data visualization tool is the one that best meets the needs of the user while also working with their existing data systems and applications and fitting into their budget. Most packages include templates and connectors for building robust models, graphics and dashboards, but the choice will also depend upon ease of use and the user’s technical ability.