With three new releases and 36 new features added in just seven months, our Visualizations module continues to advance at warp speed. Even if you are a regular user of our visualization capabilities, you may not realize just how much they’ve changed – or the wider significance of these changes.
Here, we have picked out just six of the changes most eagerly awaited by customers. They also illustrate how our visualization capabilities are shaping up to be a game changer for the industry – and for your business too.
Taken together, these enhancements support researchers and insight teams at every stage of their analytical journey. From exploratory analysis through to creating reports and presentations. From creating dynamic dashboards with stunning visuals to automating complex reporting streams delivered online or in PowerPoint. For a growing number of our customers, Forsta is now the only platform they need to use when analyzing and reporting data.
Presenting data online, in an interactive dashboard, has always been a key strength for the platform. It was what attracted many of our long-standing customers in the first place. Yet sometimes customers want their charts to be output to PowerPoint as well – and sometimes they only want PowerPoint.
For a long time now you have been able to take dashboard pages or slides created in StoryTeller and export them out to PowerPoint. These were faithful copies of what you would see on screen – but when you opened them up in PowerPoint they were static images. This meant the only place to make changes was to step back into Forsta. Then, two years ago we added the capability to build native PowerPoint slides from within StoryCreator. Editable PowerPoint is available in the StoryTeller module as well, so you can enjoy the same benefits no matter which part of the software you are in.
This means any PowerPoint slides you create can be opened and edited within PowerPoint. If you notice a small adjustment you wish to make, such as the color of a bar on a chart, or the text in a label, you can make the change directly within PowerPoint. This can be a real time saver. It also means anyone you send the PowerPoint can go in and tailor it for themselves, e.g. for presentation they are making to their colleagues.
At the same time, Forsta now lets you fine tune the look and feel of the PowerPoint output from within the software by allowing you to create and apply actual PowerPoint templates. So the PowerPoints created can look every bit as good as all the ones you lovingly created the hard way!
We noticed that people creating their own slides in StoryCreator often had decks containing several very similar slides. Clipboard lets you copy or drag slides you would like to reuse into a special holding area – your personal clipboard. You can then drag or copy any, or even all of the slides held in your clipboard to a new place in your existing deck, or on to another deck. You can then modify the pasted slides to make them into exactly the slides you want.
Breaking out of the loop
It’s not unusual to find surveys that contain more than one level of data: households and individuals, passengers and journeys, owners and their different pets. It’s easy to collect this kind of data using a loop within the survey in Forsta but it can be a headache to deal with at the analysis stage. Now it is just as easy to analyse these and get the percentage base right whether you are working with StoryCreator, StoryTeller or Crosstabs.
At the flick of a switch, you can now decide whether the chart or tab you are creating should roll up all the looped responses for each respondent or count them separately. When you are presenting a looped variable, you simply pick which base to use for percentages or mean averages – households or individuals, passengers or journeys and so on.
This feature has a heroic ring to its name – and quite deserves to. It will be an absolute time-saver for anyone charting questions in StoryCreator that come from a loop or a grid in the original survey. These often suffer from very wordy and repetitive headings, like “Restaurant meals: favorite meal: Italian”, “Restaurant meals: favorite meal: Chinese” and so on – and that’s before we get to “Restaurant meals: would consider”! Labels like this look terrible on charts, and there’s always the danger the most important word in the caption gets chopped off due to lack of space.
Smart Legends moves repeated text items from the legend into a new text heading above the chart, which makes the text easier to read without anyone having to make manual and time-consuming changes. In our example, “Restaurant meals: favorite meal” would be promoted to become the title for the chart while the legend for each series would simply say “Italian”, “Chinese” etc.
Color me by value
Forsta can already make all sorts of automatic adjustments when it presents a chart so that they respond to the data they are presenting and make what matters stand out to the reader. Now, using new “value-based coloring” you can get the system to pick the color for each series in a chart according to its value. It could be red for scores below 5, or gold for 95% satisfaction – it provides another way for you to bring the story out of the data by highlighting what is remarkable or unexpected.
Value based coloring works on column, pie and donut charts and can be done in both StoryTeller and StoryCreater.
Year on year
The October 2021 release introduced several changes focused on smarter working with time periods in StoryTeller. Previously, if you wanted to give your report users the option to filter a report slide or dashboard on one period such as a specific month or year, you had to define the filter yourself – defining the labels and the date periods. Now, you can add “native” time periods (weeks, months, quarters or years) simply by selecting the option – the system does all the work for you, and will even keep them up to date when you add more data covering new periods
Even better, once you have a native time period filter in place, you can use it to select not just one period but previous periods on charts that show a trend across several periods. For example, if a line chart shows six consecutive months of data, and the report user picks June 2021 as a filter, it won’t restrict the chart to just show June, but do the sensible thing and show the previous five months too – i.e. January to June.
Another improvement is built-in functionality to support “year over year” comparisons without having to do any additional work such as creating additional working variables in the background.
And there’s more!
We have only touched on some of the recent enhancements. You can read about all the recent changes in the release notes. Don’t be put off – we have made them easy to read, and we always include an overview at the beginning that provides a quick at-a-glance explanation of what the big changes are and the benefits they bring.
Our development team is already hard at work on making more improvements, so it won’t be long before there will be even more new features to explore.
Module Buster – the main components of our Visualizations module explained:
StoryTeller. Create charts and tables and organize these into slides which you can publish as a dashboard for your clients or other audiences to view as dynamic web pages. You can also use StoryTeller to automate the creation of PowerPoint decks based on the slides you create.
StoryCreator. Explore your data, test different analytical scenarios and create your own portfolio of charts and tables. You can also share with others who have access to StoryCreator, or by outputting what you produced into PowerPoint.
Cross-tab. Build cross-tabular reports or ‘pivot tables’ as a way of examining your data and looking for relationships between different responses and groups of participants in your research. You can share cross-tab output with others by outputting it to Excel.
With three new releases and 36 new features added in just seven months, Forsta Visualizations continues to advance at warp speed. Even if you are a regular user of the platform, you may not realize just how much has changed, or how Forsta Visualizations is shaping up to be a game changer for the industry – and for your business too. We’ve picked out some of the most eagerly awaited improvements…
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