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Making Data Interesting

Too often a list of data substitutes for information that could give site selectors a true understanding of the business dynamics of a community.

Make It Visually Interesting!

Data should be presented whenever possible in eye-catching ways that engage the viewer. Generous use of photos can go far to enliven a page of dry information. Are you showing lists of schools or businesses, for example? Illustrating those page with photos will bring your data to life for the viewer.

Visually enhanced graphs are many times more interesting and communicate strengths faster than a table does. Pie-charts, graphs or illustrative display of data can be bright, elegant or colourful and is much more memorable than a list of numbers in a chart.

Going further, you can help the viewer to put data in context by relating it to places and things in your community. With today’s web technologies you can present thematic mapping of demographic variables to show their spatial distribution and concentrations across a geographic area. For example, thematic mapping of population, income, retail spending and workforce characteristics can show the highest and lowest levels of these variables at various places within a community.

Visitors to search-friendly websites are able to select a data category, then a specific variable, then the number of groups for which the demographic variable will be shown on the map. Based on these selections the distribution of demographic concentrations is shown as a series of colours on the map interface.

In short, if you present data in ways that engage the viewer, they will dig deeper into your site and stay longer – and emerge with a favorable first impression of your community.

Make Data Work For You!

The data on your investment-attraction website doesn’t have to just sit there. You can use it to your advantage in reaching out to your audiences.

Remember that, in the era of Economic Development 2.0, the name of the game is to build a community of interest by means of frequent communications using a variety of online channels. Your data can work for you by being the focus of those communications.

When gathering and analyzing economic-development data you will spot statistics that are favorable to your community. Those are hooks! You can use them as the basis for news releases, blogs, videos, podcasts or any way you prefer to attract attention and draw traffic back to your site.

You can also use your website to create real-time data that is unique to your community. Survey-creating tools empower you to gather information and opinions on topics of interest to people and businesses. Your visitors can submit their thoughts on quick polls and see the results immediately, giving them an immediate connection to your community’s economic pulse.

Another best practice is to survey your business community regularly about what they’re doing, what is working for them, what markets they’re in, their growth expectations and so forth. All such information can be shared right back with the community through your investment-attraction website, increasing the attractiveness and stickiness of the site.

It’s also critical to remember the power that data can have when distributed through social media. Economic Development departments can now share data about their communities with their entire online network, across any number of social networking environments including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Digg. Property, demographics, consumer expenditures, business and labor force data can be designed for visual interest and distributed with a focus on making the network aware of key advantages.

So don’t just let that report sit there. Identify the key data, visually enhance it and get the key messages out to your network of interest today!

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