How to model your data as a network visualization

This guide is for you if:

  1. You think network visualizations look cool, and you want to display your data as a network visualization.
  2. You've read the introductory primer on what is a network model?.
  3. You've looked through the examples of so many different networks: curriculum maps, concept maps, even contact tracing visualizations, etc.

But you're still not sure how to get started.

If this is the case, continue reading.

Visualizing the network

The first step we always advise is to picture the network you want, in your head. Imagine little circles — what do you want those little circles to represent? These little circles, aka nodes, are the most visually-compelling things on the screen, so you want them to represent the most important things in your data. If you want to visualize a curriculum, you want these nodes to represent the courses in your curriculum. If you wanted to visualize concepts in finance, you might have important news events and assets as nodes.

After you've decided what your nodes are, it's time to think about the relationships between nodes, aka the edges. Network visualizations are powerful because they do one thing well that other data visualizations don't — they visualize the connections between nodes. Think about how your nodes are related. If your map is an accreditation map, and your nodes are student learning outcomes and courses, then you want to show how learning outcomes are addressed by certain courses. Picture this in your mind — an edge pointing from a course to a student learning outcome means that the course addresses the student learning outcome.

The last thing you want to think about is how you want to group your nodes. This step is optional — you could simply have a massive network graph with all the nodes clustered together, but we find that networks look better when they're grouped into separate clusters. For example, courses are naturally grouped by departments at a university. News events are grouped by category. Movies are grouped by genre. This idea of a group entity and parent relationship, while optional, will make your maps look better.

Entering data

Now that you have an idea of what your nodes are, and what your relationships are, it's time to enter in data.

There are essentially two ways to make a network visualization with Rhumbl:

  1. Enter your data in with the visual interface in our product, Graph Studio. Tutorial here.
  2. Enter your data into an Excel spreadsheet, and then upload it to Graph Studio. Tutorial here.

You can start with either one, and you can switch back and forth. If you're starting to make network graphs for the first time, we recommend starting with the visual interface, and then switching to the spreadsheet so you can go faster as you get more comfortable.

The tutorials for each will teach you how to enter in your nodes, edges, group entities and parent relationships. We strongly recommend working through the examples there.

If you're still stuck, feel free to email us for help at Unlimited plans get data modeling support but we'll try our best to unstick you.