Top Tips

Seven tools to make boring data beautiful

Data needn't just be boring rows of numbers. It can be artistic, eye catching and inventive to be memorable.

By Reason Digital · August 7, 2011

Your statistics should be eye-catching and inventive if they’re going to be memorable. It’s not as difficult as you might think to create beautiful visualisations and presentations – here are just a few of (mostly) free online tools that can help you do it.

Google Refine

Before you can make your statistics into a graph or chart you’ve got to get them organised. This can be where data usually falls down. Inconsistent or messy data becomes a big problem when you’re trying to merge two bits of data to create a new insight.

Fortunately Google have come up with an answer, Google Refine. Previously you had to manually fix your messy data in Excel row by row, but now Refine makes it easy to write and apply rules and cleanup steps automatically to as many datasets as you need.


crowdmap example

Want to show the places you’ve had an impact on? Then Crowdmap is the tool for you. Crowdmap makes it easy to create your own interactive map, complete with timeline. All you need to do is upload your data and Crowdmap will do the rest.

It’s already been used for a variety of social ends, including mapping the Swine Flu outbreaks, earthquakes and even London Tube strikes.


Prezi Example

When you’ve got a presentation to deliver, the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about computer software.

Almost everyone has, at one point or another, found themselves fumbling their way through a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. Both programs are functional, but they can also get in the way more than they help sometimes.

Prezi is an online presentation tool that doesn’t restrict itself to slides. Perspectives, zooms and positions can be rearranged at a whim to create much more interesting presentations.

Prezi currently offers both free and premium accounts. All the presentations made by free accounts can be viewed on the Prezi website, so if you are planning on creating a presentation with private material then make sure to either pay for an account or stick to PowerPoint.


Gapminder Example

Gapminder is a graphing tool that was created to help promote sustainable global development and help achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

On the website are graphs that track the health and wealth of nations since 1880, the amount of people killed in floods across the world, as well as many others.

You can select from a vast amount of data to create your own graphs. Unfortunately, Gapminder doesn’t allow any new data to be uploaded by users yet. There is a chance that Gapminder might already have the statistics you are looking to display, though. Example

One of the newest and most promising websites in the field of data visualisation, looks to serve both as a search engine for info-graphics and as a place to create your own.

Currently has a good selection of graphs, info-graphics and diagrams on display but is lacking in the tools required to make them. With promises of interesting new applications on the way, however, is definitively one to keep an eye on.

Google Maps

Google Maps Example

Although most people only use it for planning out journeys and finding directions, Google Maps can actually be an effective way of showing data. By using the Google Maps API you can easily plot locations and details onto a map, and then embed that map onto your website. It is the most widely used tool of its type and can often be seen used by data journalists to track current events.

Google Charts

Google Charts Example

Sometimes the most effective way to display data is the simplest and, as great as a complicated diagram is, sometimes all you want is a pie chart or graph. This is where Google Charts comes in handy.

With only a rudimentary knowledge of coding, you can create a range of interactive charts to display on your website. For those feeling adventurous, Google Charts also offers a lot more complicated and experimental ways to display your data too.


Presenting statistics in an aesthetically pleasing way is crucial and fortunately these are only a few of the tools available to help you on the web. Do you use any others? Tell us in the comments, or get in touch with us to chat about, or get help with, this in more detail.

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