Using Charts Effectively to Report on Survey Ratings
The best way to visualize survey data depends on both the type of data and the story the data tell.
In a prior post I discussed visualizing the composition of an audience. In this post I turn my attention to visualizing ratings.
Rating questions are ubiquitous in market research surveys. They are used to measure customer satisfaction, evaluate product concepts, assess brand performance, and more. They are so common that market research practitioners can chart the results with our eyes closed. But if we close our eyes, we might miss the story in the data.
With eyes wide open, let’s look at the ways our ratings charts impact how our readers interpret the findings.
- Colors are loaded with meaning. Color choices that reinforce the findings can make a chart easier to understand.
- The more data we present the higher the reader’s cognitive load. Reducing the data charted to only that necessary to support the story helps the reader focus on what’s important.
Colors Have Meaning
Let’s consider the following typical 5-point scale:
- Extremely unlikely
- Very unlikely
- Neither likely nor unlikely
- Very likely
- Extremely likely
The chart colors and the words comprising the scale should reinforce one another. Generally, cool colors for positive scale points and warm colors for negatives align with human expectations. Given these exceptions, stoplight colors – green, yellow, red – are an obvious choice. However, they are not universally accessible due to red-green color blindness. Furthermore, yellow is associated with caution, so may have a more negative connotation than is appropriate for a neutral midpoint. Apart from natural choices, brand colors can also play a role in color choice. If a brand’s logo is red, for example, using red for negatives would not be a viable choice.
At Big Village we use greens for positives, blue for neutrals, and browns for negatives when working within our own color palette, as shown below. When working with client palettes we develop an appropriate cool-to-warm color set. This approach can easily be extended from 5-point scales to 7-points or more with additional tones of the same basic colors.