Sort out your data

Hiding within those mounds of data is knowledge that could change your world.
— Atul Butte

With a tsunami of data it is easy to create large tables of data. However, with such large amounts of data, it is difficult to see that the message is. When presenting these tables, some people leave them in the default order. So, if it was a list of sales by country or sales by product then these would be listed alphabetically. Unfortunately, insights rarely occur alphabetically. So, if you sort alphabetically then you are burying your insights and making it hard for your audience to find the insights.

Let's start a New Year with a simple but effective message. Look at the same table below sorted in three different ways.

If the data is sorted alphabetically, then if you are looking to see which segment sold the most then you need to read down until you get to row 8 (highlighted to make it easier to see). If you want to find what was the second biggest seller then you need to scan up and down until you see it was Figs.

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Contrast this with a table sorted by units. In a second you can see Melons is best seller and Figs is the second best seller. So, the lesson is sort by the column that has the message you want to show.

What if you wanted to show the segment growing fastest? In the alphabetical sorted data, you need to scan up and down until you find Lemon grows fastest. In the data sorted by units, it's still challenging to find the fastest growing segment. So, if the message was about the fastest growth sort your table by growth and in a second you see that Lemon is growing at 63.5% a year.

What if you wanted to show the biggest selling segment and the fastest growing segment? The simplest way to do this is to show the two tables with different headings and sorted in two ways.

Sort out your data and make your New Year's resolution to be to present clear and useful insights.