In an age of endless email and chat communications, it’s never been more important to communicate insights succinctly and clearly. But explaining charts and graphs—especially complex ones—can seem daunting without presenting in person.
That’s why I rely on quick annotation tools like Skitch—which enable me to point out specific data and provide insights directly on top of a beautiful chart or graph in a matter of minutes. I just snap a screenshot, drop it into Skitch, point out a number of different trends, and then copy-paste the annotated graphic in an email, Slack or Glip message for others to see and respond to.
Tips for effective Skitch annotations
As you make your own Skitch annotations, it's a good idea to keep the following best practices in mind:
- Start with a screenshot of a great chart or graph. That way you don’t waste your time building a visualization from scratch. Klipfolio, Mixpanel, and Google Analytics all offer wonderful screenshot-ready charts, graphs and tables.
- Add a max of two annotations per chart—any more and things will get confusing
- Use EITHER arrows or boxes to point something out, but not both (it’s redundant)
- Use Skitch's “Pixelate” tool to hide sensitive data
- Use command-shift-C to copy the annotated Skitch, and then paste it anywhere! I'm especially fond of pasting Skitch-annotated charts and graphs into Slack, Glip, Spark, and regular old email.
Skitch annotation examples
Here are just a few ways I’ve used Skitch recently:
Pointing out trends in a Mixpanel retention table
Platforms like Mixpanel have wonderfully robust retention tables (and other visualizations), but oftentimes your audience needs a little hand-holding through such complex charts. Skitch to the rescue!
Highlighting trends in a complex chart
Trends might seem obvious to someone steeped in the data, but for others the relationship between two divergent lines might not be so intuitive. A few bright Skitch words next to a highlighted set of data points solves the ambiguity:
Showing causality in a Klipfolio dashboard
Dashboards powered by super flexible platforms like Klipfolio enable Business Intelligence experts to pack a ton of data into a compact space. But sometimes the relationships between different data tiles aren't entirely clear. Two Skitch arrows and some bold companion text helps hand-hold your audience towards an analytical conclusion!
Anonymizing sensitive data
Sometimes you'll need to share charts and graphs which contain sensitive information. Skitch makes this super simple with its Pixelate tool, which will blur out any sensitive data by drawing a box over it. I've done just that with the twitter handle above (to protect my client's identity) and in the chart below (shared with a 3rd party vendor to point out a data discrepancy).
Hopefully this post will help get you well on your way to producing succinct and effective annotations on top of charts and graphs. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to learn more about visual storytelling with data, and happy Skitching!