The amount of data generated and consumed by organizations is growing at an astounding rate.
The total volume of data and information worldwide has risen from approximately 2 zettabytes in 2010 to 74 in 2021, according to online data service Statistica. By 2024 the figure is expected to hit 149 zettabytes.
As organizations find themselves awash in data, there’s a growing need to make it digestible, understandable and actionable. Data visualization software takes direct aim at the task by creating static or moving images that communicate concepts in a way that words and numbers alone cannot.
By representing myriad data points graphically it’s possible to peer deeper into important numbers, trends, metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). These dashboards and graphics may take the form of pie charts, bar charts, scatter plots, polar area diagrams, heat maps, timelines, ring charts, matrix charts, word clouds and many other types of representations.
Not surprisingly, data visualization tools have moved out from the shadow of data scientists and IT departments and into the hands of business users. Organizations are now using visualization software to better understand scenarios as varied as customer sentiment and behavior, real-time sales, health care trends, departmental goals and market research, to name a few. In addition, advertisers and media organizations use these tools to generate eye-catching graphics and infographics.
Of course, different data visualization solutions 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 residing in the enterprise. Some of these tools also incorporate machine learning and AI to deliver more advanced functionality — and insights. Most packages include templates and connectors for building robust models, graphics and dashboards.
If you’re in the market for a data visualization solution, 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 pricing preferences.
How to Select the Data Visualization Software Platform
It’s important to focus on several factors when selecting a data visualization solution.
- What type of visualizations do you require? Not surprisingly, different data visualization applications 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 APIs for ingesting data.
- What types of platform does the software run on and what devices does it support? Some solutions are cloud-based and others reside on desktop and even mobile devices. Some vendors that support an on-premises model have applications that run only on Windows. This can present problems if you have teams using Macs.
- Does the package adequately support your organization’s performance requirements? Some applications encounter difficulties with extremely large files, and some don’t perform well in certain situations. If the rendering engine can’t support the speed required for web pages and real-time dashboards, 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 through other programs and platforms connected through APIs. Make sure the program can support these changes.
- What does vendor support look like? An application may produce stunning visualizations. Yet building these visualizations can be extraordinarily difficult. Make sure a vendor offers solid documentation and support, including videos and tutorials. Also, check on whether the vendor offers 24×7 phone support if you get bogged down.
- What does the package cost? Some solutions, such as Google Data Studio, are free. Of course, they may not deliver the features you need — or they may lock you into a specific cloud provider. Most vendors offer tiered pricing, including an enterprise option. Review the choices carefully.
- What security protections does it offer? Make sure that a platform provides adequate protections for accessing, securing and sharing data.
10 top data visualization applications
- Google Data Studio
- Qlik Sense
- Zoho Analytics
See more: What is Data Visualization?
The cloud-based business analytics platform pulls data from a wide variety of sources to generate data visualizations in real-time. The list includes 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.
- Offers innovative features, including looped data boards, scheduled snapshots and annotations
- Provides more than 70 one-click integrations with data services
- Offers more than 200 pre-built reports
- Intuitive interface and highly flexible visualizations
- Some users complain about subpar integrations leading to inaccurate data and visualizations
- Reports aren’t highly customizable
- Some users complain about frequent bugs and crashes
Google Data Studio incorporates interactive dashboards and automated reporting. The cloud-based platform imports data from multiple sources, including Google Analytics, Google Ads and spreadsheets, and it 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
- Offers strong collaboration features and the ability to share dashboards
- Built in tool for calculating metrics and formulas
- Highly customizable
- Can be difficult to integrate with non-Google platforms
- Some users complain that the reporting functions are confusing and difficult to use
- Some complaints about frequent bugs and crashes
- Users complain that customer support is subpar
The application strives for real-time operational intelligence through rich visualization capabilities. It 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. This 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, particular for SMBs
- Can be difficult to set up and configure
- The large 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. These include infographics, reports, dashboards, maps, charts and social media assets, such 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.
- Offers a 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
- The 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
The vendor offers a self-service data analytics platform that’s designed for a broad array of users, including executives, decision-makers and analysts. The on-premise or cloud software provides drag-and-drop functionality and it 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.
- Delivers powerful features and tools for building complex data visualizations from nearly any data source or set
- Offers an AI-based Smart Search feature that helps users uncover data relationships
- Uses machine learning and AI for enhanced insights
- Includes real-time analytics and data visualization
- Excellent mobile device functionality
- Learning curve can be steep
- Requires some technical knowledge to use the software effectively
- Users report that customizations can be challenging
- Can be expensive, especially with add-ons
The AI-powered analytics platform uses a robust set of APIs to generate data visualizations and actionable analytics. Available both in the cloud or on-premise, Sisense is highly customizable, and it 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.
- Delivers powerful features along with fast and rich visualizations
- Intuitive user interface
- Customizable and flexible
- Uses natural language and other AI to generate reports and visualizations
- Highly rated customer support
- Some reports of performance slowing with heavy data loads
- Some users complain that documentation is lacking, particularly surrounding widgets
- Documentation can be difficult to understand.
The popular business intelligence platform 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.
- Offers thousands of templates for infographics, presentations, charts, maps, documents and more
- Integrates with Slack, YouTube, Vimeo, Dropbox, Google Drive, SurveyMonkey, Mailchimp, Google Maps and many other products and services
- Provides strong collaboration features
- Offers excellent tutorials and other learning materials
- Highly rated customer support
- Some users complain that the same graphics appear frequently at different companies and websites
- Can be challenging to learn
- Users say that the interface can at times 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. Marketing professionals use it to visualize data and build cross-channel reports. The application offers a variety of pre-designed templates and widgets, and it 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-premise 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.
- Comes with more than 500 data connectors
- Includes strong collaborative features with security protections
- Includes AI-based augmented analytics that let users create data visualizations using natural language.
- Some users say that the interface is not user-friendly and as intuitive as they would like
- The application can be slow to generate data visualization with very large data sets
- Features and support for mobile platforms and devices sometimes lacking
- Some users complain that the application lacks flexibility, particularly in regard to changing reports
See more: Best Data Quality Tools & Software 2021
Comparison Table of Data Visualization Software
· Innovative features
· One-click integration with 70+ data services
· Extensive reporting formats
· Intuitive interface
· Integrations don’t always work well
· Reports aren’t highly customizable
· Some complains about bugs and crashes
|Google Data Studio||
· Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
· Strong collaboration features
· Highly customizable
· Difficult to use outside Google ecosystem
· Reporting can be confusing
· Subpar customer support
· Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
· Connectors for almost all major data sources
· Produces rich visualizations
· Highly flexible
· Can be difficult to set up and configure
· Large number of design options can be daunting
· Can be difficult to import very large files
· Large and varied collection of templates
· Intuitive and easy to use interface
· Integrates well with Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox
· Strong collaboration features
· Free plan is extremely limited
· Reports of frequent bugs and crashes
· It’s not possible to work on projects offline
· Powerful features
· Supports a very wide range of data sources
· Includes machine learning and AI capabilities
· Works well on mobile devices
· Steep learning curve
· Requires some technical knowledge to build
· Not easily customizable
· Can be pricy with add-ons
· Powerful features and rich visualizations
· Intuitive user interface
· Flexible and customizable
· Incorporate natural language and other AI functions
· High customer support ratings
· Can exhibit slow performance for very large data loads
· May require scripting for more advanced visualizations
· Some complaints about documentation materials
· Fast and extremely powerful
· Intuitive interface
· Connects to most major data sources
· Supports most platforms and devices
· Difficult to customize
· Mixed user reviews about customer support
· Some security controls missing
· Offers numerous templates
· Integrates with most major applications and data sources
· Strong collaboration
· Highly rated customer support
· Users complain they see the same graphics at different websites
· Can be challenging to learn the program
· Interface can be slow at times
· Some complaints about bugs
· Shines for marketing and social media
· Powerful cross-channel integration and monitoring
· Automated reporting features
· Not highly customizable
· Setting up integrations can be difficult and
· Some user complaints about customer support
· More than 500 data connectors
· Strong collaboration with built in security
· Offers AI and natural language features
· User interface could be more user-friendly
· Can be slow when accessing very large data sets
· Lacks flexibility for some users