Data Visualization 101: How to Choose the Right Chart for Your Data

Types of charts to use for your data

  • bar chart
  • bar graph
  • Line diagram
  • Double axis diagram
  • Area chart
  • Stacked bar chart
  • Mecca diagram
  • Cake chart
  • Scatter plot
  • Bubble chart
  • Waterfall map
  • Funnel chart
  • bullet point
  • Heat map

You and I search a lot of data for our jobs. Data on website performance, sales performance, product adoption, customer service, results of marketing campaigns … the list goes on.

If you manage several Content resourceslike social media or a blog, With multiple data sources, it can get overwhelming. What should you pursue? What is actually important? How do you visualize and analyze the data to extract insights and actionable information?

M.Or how can you make reporting more efficient when you are working on multiple projects at the same time?

One of the problems that slows down my own reporting and analysis is understanding what types of charts to use – and why. This is because choosing the wrong visual aid or simply using the most common type of data visualization can create confusion for the viewer or lead to incorrect data interpretation.

In order to create charts that illustrate and provide the correct canvas for analysis, the first thing to understand is the reasons why you might need a chart. In this post, I’m going to cover five questions to ask yourself as you choose a chart for your data.

Then I’ll give you an overview of 14 different chart types that are available to you.

5 questions to ask when deciding which chart type to use

1. Would you like to compare values?

Charts are perfect for comparing one or more sets of values ​​and can easily show the low and high values ​​in the data sets. Use the following chart types to create a comparison chart:

  • pillar
  • Mecca
  • bar
  • cake
  • line
  • Scatter plot
  • Bullet

2. Would you like to show the composition of something?

Use this type of diagram to show how individual parts make up the whole; For example, the type of device used for mobile visitors to your website or the total revenue by sales rep.

Use these charts to see the composition:

  • cake
  • Stacked bar
  • Mecca
  • Stacked column
  • Area
  • waterfall

3. Do you want to understand how your data is distributed?

Distribution charts help you understand outliers, the normal tendency, and the scope of information of your values.

Use these charts to see the distribution:

  • Scatter plot
  • Mecca
  • line
  • pillar
  • bar

4. Would you like to analyze trends in your data set?

If you want more information about the performance of a dataset over a period of time, there are certain types of charts that are great.

You should choose:

  • line
  • Double axis line
  • pillar

5. Would you like to better understand the relationship between sets of values?

Relationship diagrams show how a variable relates to one or more different variables. You can use this to show how something has a positive, no-effect, or negative effect on another variable.

Use the following diagrams to help establish the relationship between things:

14 Different types of graphs and charts used to represent data

To better understand each chart and how to use it, here is an overview of each chart type.

1. Column chart

A column chart is used to show a comparison between different items, or it can show a comparison of items over time. You can use this format to show sales per landing page or customer by close date.

Bar chart - customers by closing date

Design best practices for column charts:

  • Use consistent colors Select accent colors throughout the chart to highlight important data points or changes over time.
  • Use horizontal captions to improve readability.
  • Start the y-axis at 0 to adequately reflect the values ​​in your diagram.

2. Bar graph

A bar chart, basically a horizontal column chart, should be used to avoid clutter when a data label is long or when you have more than 10 items to compare. This type of visualization can also be used to display negative numbers.

Bar Chart - Customers by Role

Designing best practices for bar graphs:

  • Use consistent colors Select accent colors throughout the chart to highlight important data points or changes over time.
  • Use horizontal captions to improve readability.
  • Start the y-axis at 0 to adequately reflect the values ​​in your diagram.

3. Line graph

A line chart shows trends or progress over time and can be used to show many different categories of data. You should use it when you are drawing a continuous data set.

Line graph - average days to close

Design best practices for line charts:

  • Use only solid lines.
  • Do not draw more than four lines to avoid visual distractions.
  • Use the correct height So the lines take up about 2/3 the height of the y-axis.

4. Dual axis diagram

With a two-axis chart, you can plot data with two y-axes and a common x-axis. It is used with three records, one of which is based on a continuous record and one of which is more suitable for grouping by category. This should be used to visualize a correlation or lack of correlation between these three data sets.

Two axis diagram - sales from new customers

Design best practices for two-axis charts:

  • Use the y-axis on the left for the primary variable because brains naturally tend to look left first.
  • Use different graphic styles to illustrate the two data sets as shown above.
  • Choose contrasting colors for the two records.

5. Area chart

An area chart is basically a line chart, but the space between the x-axis and the line is filled with a color or pattern. This is useful for showing part-to-whole relationships, e.g. B. to display the contribution of individual sales employees to total sales for a year. It helps you analyze both general and individual trending information.

Area chart - users by lifecycle stage

Designing best practices for area charts:

  • Use transparent colors So information is not hidden in the background.
  • Do not show more than four categories to avoid clutter.
  • Organize highly variable data at the top of the chart make it easy to read.

6. Stacked bar chart

This should be used to compare many different items and to show the composition of each item being compared.

Stacked bar chart - mqls to sqls

Designing best practices for stacked bar charts:

  • Best for illustration Part-to-whole relationships.
  • Use contrasting colors for more clarity.
  • Make the chart scale large enough Show group sizes in relation to each other.

7. Mecca diagram

Also known as a Marimekko chart, this type of graph can compare values, measure the composition of each data, and show how your data is distributed across each chart.

It is similar to a stacked bar, except that the Mekko’s x-axis is used to capture a different dimension of your values ​​- rather than passage of time, as column charts often do. In the graphic below, the x-axis compares each city with one another.

Mekko Chart - World's Largest Asset Manager

Image via Mekko Graphics

Design Mekko Diagram Best Practices:

  • Vary your beam heights when portion size is an important point of comparison.
  • Don’t include too many compound values within each bar. You may want to reevaluate the way your data is presented when you have a lot.
  • Order your bars from left to right so that a relevant trend or message becomes visible.

8. Pie chart

A pie chart shows a static number and how categories represent part of a whole – the composition of something. A pie chart represents numbers as a percentage, and the total of all segments must be 100%.

Pie Chart - Customers by Role

Designing pie chart best practices:

  • Don’t illustrate too many categories to ensure the distinction between slices.
  • Make sure you have the slice values add up to 100%.
  • Order slices according to their size.

9. Scatter plot

A scatter plot or a scatter plot shows the relationship between two different variables or can reveal distribution trends. It should be used when there are many different data points and you want to highlight similarities in the data set. This is useful when looking for outliers or understanding the distribution of your data.

Scatter plot - customer satisfaction by response time

To design scatterplot best practices:

  • Add more variablesB. different sizes to accommodate more data.
  • Start the y-axis at 0 Present data accurately.
  • When you use Trend linesUse a maximum of two to make your action understandable.

10. Bubble chart

A bubble chart is similar to a scatter chart in that it can show the distribution or relationship. There is a third record, indicated by the size of the bubble or circle.

Bubble chart - online hours by age and gender

Design bubble chart best practices:

  • Scale bubbles by area, not diameter.
  • Insure yourself Labels are clear and visible.
  • Use circular shapes just.

11. Waterfall map

A waterfall diagram should be used to show how an initial value is influenced by intermediate values ​​- either positively or negatively – leading to a final value. This should be used to reveal the composition of a number. An example of this would be to show how the total turnover of the company is influenced by different departments and leads to a certain profit number.

Waterfall Chart - Product Profit Analysis

Diagram via Baans Consulting

Design best practices for Waterfall cards::

  • Use contrasting colors Highlight differences in data sets.
  • Choose warm colors to indicate an increase and cool colors to indicate a decrease.

12. Funnel Chart

A funnel chart shows a series of steps and the completion rate for each step. This can be used to track the sales process or conversion rate across a series of pages or steps.

Funnel Diagram - Marketing Funnel Process

Design funnel chart best practices:

  • Scale the size of each section to accurately reflect the size of the data set.
  • Use contrasting colors or a color in graduated hues from dark to light as the funnel size decreases.

13. Bullets

A bullet chart shows progress toward a goal, compares it to another metric, and provides context in the form of a rating or performance.

Bullets - New Customers

Design bullet chart best practices:

  • Use contrasting colors to highlight how the data is progressing.
  • Use a color in different colors to measure progress.

14. Heat map

A heat map shows the relationship between two elements and provides evaluation information such as: B. high to low or poor to excellent. The rating information is displayed with different colors or saturations.

Heat map diagram - highest grade vs. Class identification

Design heat map best practices:

  • Use a Basic and clear map outline so as not to distract from the data.
  • Use a single color in different colors to indicate changes in the data.
  • Avoid using multiple patterns.

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