The most common question I get in my work, by far THE top question, is What software did you use to make that?

If I’m only thinking selfishly, I’m flattered. Heck yes. My graphs are so good people want to know what magic tool created it.

Most of the time, my answer is Excel and then I have to pass out kerchiefs like I’m some old dandy to help mop up all the drool when my audiences jaws hit the floor.

When my more community-oriented angels prevail, I start thinking differently about that Which software question. I start feeling bad for the person who asked it.

Because underneath that question is a hope. That there will be some perfect solution. That if we just purchased the right software, this whole data visualization business would be faster, easier, more accessible to the entire team.

I hate crushing hopes.

Truth is, every software is going to require some learning curve.

And learning curves are always obstacles. Every software is going to require some patience and tenacity, some education and hand-holding.

Just like learning to drive a car. Even though my drivers ed instructor, Mr. Bramble (who was also my swim teacher), “taught” us how to drive by popping in a video of horrible highway accidents so he could nap. On his caffeinated days, we’d drive the tan sedan, me in the driver’s seat and Mr. Bramble with his foot hovering over the specialty brake installed on the passenger side.

Despite his semi-wakeful state, I couldn’t have gotten over that learning curve as fast and ticket-less as I did without his instruction.

Coaches are indispensable. We have data visualization coaches ready to walk you over that learning curve inside the Data Viz Certification Program. We take you step-by-step, giving you feedback, showing you shortcuts, and cheering you on.

Even then, you’ll run into frustration moments.

Like when Juliana was learning how to make overlapping bar charts in Tableau and she asked “why is this size tool so annoying and inefficient?” YUP. As great as Tableau is, parts of it still kinda suck.

Every tool has its drawbacks.

The Tableau feature request site has over 10,000 submissions.

The Power BI request site doesn’t tell you how many submissions they’ve had but there are 500 pages of results.

The hope that we’ll find a perfect tool that no one struggles to learn, that can make every chart with the click of a button – you’re fishing at the wrong wishing well, my friend.

The question should not be Which Software.

Come to my class to learn about the questions you should be asking.

When you start with these questions, you will, eventually, figure out which software to invest in. We’ll get to the same goal: stunning, useful, informative data visualization. We’ll just take a clearer path to get there.

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