A quick guide goes over the 14 do’s and don’ts of data visualization. This guide is not intended to teach these do’s and don’ts but rather serve as a reminder.
With any initiative, it can be valuable to document and describe the implementation to understand what occurred and what shifts or changes were made to the original design (e.g., fidelity to the model). This understanding helps when replicating, scaling, or seeking future funding for the initiative.
Documentation can be done by the evaluator and be shared with the grantee (as a way to validate an evaluator’s understanding of the project). Alternatively, project staff can document progress and share this with the evaluator as a way to keep the evaluation team up to date (which is especially helpful on small-budget evaluation projects).
The documentation of progress can be extremely detailed or high level (e.g., a snapshot of the initiative’s development). When tracking implementation milestones, consider:
- What is the goal of the document?
- Who is the audience?
- What are the most effective ways to display and group the data?
For example, if you are interested in understanding a snapshot of milestones and modifications of the original project design, you might use a structure like the one below:
If you are especially interested in highlighting the effect of delays on project implementation and the cause, you may adjust the visual to include directional arrows and shading:
In these examples, we organized the snapshot by quarterly progress, but you can group milestones by month or even include a timeline of the events. Similarly, in Image 2 we categorized progress in buckets (e.g., curriculum, staffing) based on key areas of the grant’s goals and activities. These categories should change to align with the unique focus of each initiative. For example, if professional development is a considerable part of the grant, then perhaps placing that into a separate category (instead of combining it with staffing) would be best.
Another important consideration is the target audience. We have used this framework when communicating with project staff and leadership to show, at a high level, what is taking place within the project. This diagramming has also been valuable for sharing knowledge across our evaluation staff members, leading to discussions around fidelity to the model and any shifts or changes that may need to occur within the evaluation design, based on project implementation. Some of your stakeholders, such as project funders, may want more information than just the snapshot. In these cases, you may consider adding additional detail to the snapshot visual, or starting your report with the snapshot and then providing an additional narrative around each bucket and/or time period covered within the visual.
Also, the framework itself can be modified. If, for example, you are more concerned about showing the cause and effect instead of adjustments, you may group everything together as “milestones” instead of having separate categories for “adjustments” and “additional milestones.”
For our evaluation team, this approach has been a helpful way to consolidate, disseminate, and discuss initiative milestones with key stakeholder groups such as initiative staff, evaluators, college leadership, and funders. We hope this will be valuable to you as well.
One-page evaluation reports are a great way to provide a snapshot of a project’s activities and impact to stakeholders such as advisory groups, college administrators, and NSF program officers. Summarizing key evaluation facts in a format that is easily and quickly digestible engages the busy reader and can make your project stand out.
Although traditional, long-form evaluation reports are still an excellent way to distribute evaluation results, one-page reports increase the engagement, understanding, and use of evaluation for both the current grant and leveraging findings with potential follow-up grants.
In this webinar, we will provide you with the tools and resources you need to create effective one-page reports and share some examples that have worked well in our practice.
Traditional, long-form reports are often used to detail the depth and specifics of an evaluation. However, many readers simply don’t have the time or bandwidth to digest a 30-page report. Distilling the key information into one page can help catch the eye of busy program staff, college administrators, or policy makers.
When we say “one pager,” we mean a single-page document that summarizes evaluation data, findings, or recommendations. It’s generally a stand-alone document that supplements a longer report, dataset, or presentation.
One pagers are a great way to get your client the data they need to guide data-driven decisions. These summaries can work well as companion documents for long reports or as a highlight piece for an interim report. We created a 10-step process to help facilitate the creation of a one pager. Additional materials are available, including detailed slides, grid layouts, videos, and more.
Ten-step process for creating a one pager:
1. Identify the audience
Be specific about who you are talking to and their information priorities. The content and layout of the document should be tailored to meet the needs of this audience.
2. Identify the purpose
Write a purpose statement that identifies why you are creating the one pager. This will help you decide what information to include or to exclude.
3. Prioritize your information
Categorize the information most relevant to your audience. Then rank each category from highest to lowest priority to help inform layout of the document.
4. Choose a grid
Use a grid to intentionally organize elements visually for readers. Check out our free pre-made grids, which you can use for your own one pagers, and instructions on how to use them in PowerPoint (video).
5. Draft the layout
Print out your grid layout and sketch your design by hand. This will allow you to think creatively without technological barriers and will save you time.
6. Create an intentional visual path
Pay attention to how the reader’s eye moves around the page. Use elements like large numbers, ink density, and icons to guide the reader’s visual path. Keep in mind the page symmetry and need to balance visual density. For more tips, see Canva’s Design Elements and Principles.
7. Create a purposeful hierarchy
Use headings intentionally to help your readers navigate and identify the content.
8. Use white space
The brain subconsciously views content grouped together as a cohesive unit. Add white space to indicate that a new section is starting.
9. Get feedback
Run your designs by a colleague or client to help catch errors, note areas needing clarification, and ensure the document makes sense to others. You will likely need to go through a few rounds of feedback before the document is finalized.
10. Triple-check consistency
Triple-check, and possibly quadruple-check, for consistency of fonts, alignment, size, and colors. Style guides can be a useful way to keep track of consistency in and across documents. Take a look at EvaluATE’s style guide here.
The demand for one pagers is growing, and now you are equipped with the information you need to succeed in creating one. So, start creating your one pagers now!
Dashboards are a way to present data about the “trends of an organization’s key performance indicators.”1 Dashboards are designed to provide information to decision makers about important trends and outcomes related to key program activities in real time. Think of a car’s dashboard. It gives you information about the amount of gas the car has, the condition of the engine, and the speed—all of which allow you to pay more attention to what is going on around you. Dashboards optimally work by combining data from a number of sources into one document (or web page) that is focused on giving the user the “big picture,” and keeping them from getting lost in the details. For example, a single dashboard could present data on event attendance, participant demographics, web analytics, and student outcomes, which can give the user important information about project reach, as well as potential avenues for growth.
As a project or center’s complexity increases, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. By using a dashboard that is designed to integrate many pieces of information about the project or center, staff and stakeholders can make well-balanced decisions and can see the results of their work in a more tangible way. Evaluators can also take periodic readings from the dashboard to inform their own work, providing formative feedback to support good decisions.
For some real-world examples, check out bit.ly/db-examples