As an engineer, IT specialist, or system administrator, you're comfortable with log files. Sometimes, however, the person looking at your log files and trying to make the right decision isn't you. We're not talking about the "new guy" who doesn't know your systems yet; we're talking about the Finance Director, the COO, or the MD. We're talking about the people who sign the cheques to get the bigger, better hardware you know you need, or approve that software upgrade that's going to mean a few less all-nighters for your team.
The reasons to say "yes" are all there in the logs, but if you don't make that data visual, then you may not get the "yes" that you need. Here's why...
1. Humans are "wired visually"
Almost 50% of your brain is involved in processing visual stimuli and 70% of all your sensory perceptors are located in your eyes. Thanks to this, humans are able to analyse a visual scene in less than 1/10th of a second.
If you're trying to get your message across to someone who is short on time, give them something that they can understand in 1/10th of a second.
2. Humans are drowning in information already
We receive on average 5X more information today as we did in 1986. Our brains, however, work pretty much the same. As a consequence, the average user only reads 27% of the words on any webpage they visit. Humans need information simplified and made easily digestible.
It only takes us 150 milliseconds to process a symbol (like a tick, cross, or danger sign), and an additional 100 milliseconds to attach meaning to it.
3. They are far more convincing than text, and easier to recall
A study carried about by the Wharton School of Business found that any presentation of information that included visual aids was 17% more convincing to a test audience. Another, separate, study also found that presenting information in colour increased people's willingness to read by 80%.
And, once you have their attention, people remember 80% of what they see but only 20% of what they read. So, show them what you need them to know and to remember - don't make them read it.
You can find out more interesting facts about information visualisation and why it works here - http://neomam.com/interactive/13reasons/ - in a handy infographic!