Pie charts and bar graphs may look like something out of 3rd grade math, but for business users, going from raw data to a chart that's both useful and good looking is more complicated.
But for the team behind Chart.io, a YCombinator alum that creates easy-to-use interfaces for business users who want to visualize information in their company databases, parsing through large amounts of data doesn't have to be difficult, even if you're not a data scientist.
Typically, the average employee doesn't have the proper training to make sense of business trends waiting to be dug out of the sea of columns, numbers, and other components of often large company databases. Say you're a sales manager and you want to look at a chart that plots the number of sales that occurred in a particular region. Chances are, you'll have to put in a request with your company's IT department for a chart that will take as long as a week to turn over.
Chart.io creates interfaces that help any business employee make sense of all that raw database information by allowing you to drag and drop bits of info to create charts and dashboards that visualize just the pieces of data you want to see, in real time. Chart.io provides support for several of the most popular databases services including MySQL, Google Analytics, and Oracle, so even if your company uses multiple databases, Chart.io lets you approach them as one big pool of data, which makes it easier to uncover trends and business drivers.
CEO Dave Fowler says Chart.io aims to remove a lot of the friction involved in moving from raw data to intelligent visualizations. One big traditional pain point, for example, is that often business users don't know exactly what they're looking for when they make requests for charts.
"When people in the real world make requests for information, you have a sense of what you're going for, thinking, 'If I see this, maybe I'll learn something.'"
But Fowler says the most useful data is often unearthed after you realize the first visualization—what you thought you wanted to see—wasn't quite right. But you can't make requests for dozens of different charts—it would take days, perhaps weeks, just to get it all in front of you, not to mention that you'd probably have a few very annoyed IT employees.
"People can be shy about asking a bunch of stupid questions," he says. "Having an interface that allows you to do that quickly and quietly and discover things without the need for a third party makes that discovery a little more organic and unexpected."
[Image: Flickr user Cameron Nordholm]