Choosing the Right Chart for Your Data

Data is the foundation of effective business.  Without data, you are unable to gain the insights necessary to perform required tasks. Moreover, being able to quickly read and analyze your data enables you with the necessary information to understand how a particular set or group of facts contributes to your overall success and steer your decisions proactively.  This is why data visualization is key. Creating a graph or chart will help you and other team members interpret the questions behind the data.

This downloadable resource guides you in choosing which chart is best for the data you’re visualizing through best use cases. Bookmark this page or even print a copy of your own!

 

Area Chart: An Area Chart displays graphically quantitative data. It is based on the Line Chart (see definition below). The area between axis and line are commonly emphasized with colors, textures, and hatchings. Commonly, a user compares two or more values with an Area Chart.  When many different values are to be charted, a Line Chart is typically easier to read. A good use case for this type of chart is when you need to compare how two to five different values change over time, such as a Sales vs Costs chart over the years.

areachart-example

Bar Chart: A Bar Chart presents grouped data within rectangular bars that have lengths proportional to the values they represent. The bars are plotted horizontally. A good use case for this type of chart is when you have comparative data that consists of 10 or more categories, or has longer category labels, such as a Sales by Salesperson chart that has many salespeople and displays the full salesperson name.

 barchart-example

Bubble Chart: Bubble Charts are very similar to Scatter Charts with an additional attribute. As with a Scatter Chart, two of the attributes indicate the X and Y locations of the bubble itself. Bubble Charts add a third attribute that impacts the size of the bubble. An example of this would be Cost vs Profit with the bubble size being impacted by overall sales percentage.

 bubblechart-example

Column Chart: A Column Chart is a graphic representation of data. Column Charts display vertical bars going across the chart horizontally, with the values axis being displayed on the left side of the chart. A good use case for this type of chart is when you have comparative data that consists of 10 or fewer categories and has short category labels, such as a Sales by Product Category chart where there are not multiple categories and they have relatively short names.

 columnchart-example

Combo Chart: A Combo Chart allows you to combine various chart types together, including Bar Charts, Column Charts, Line Charts, and Area Charts.  If needed, allows for comparing values of different scopes, such as Values vs Percentages.  A good use case for this type of chart is when you need to compare different types of values in slightly different visual patterns, such as charting Sales, Cost, and Profit % over time.

 combochart-example

Line Chart: A Line Chart is a basic and common type of chart that displays information as a series of data points called ‘markers’ connected by straight line segments.  A Line Chart is often used to visualize a trend in data over intervals of time, thus the line is often drawn chronologically.  A good use case for this type of chart is when you need to compare how many values change, such as a Quantities on Hand per Product Category over time.

 line-chart-example

Scatter Chart: Also called a Scatter Graph, Scatter Plot, Scattergram, or Scatter Diagram, the Scatter Chart is a type of plot or mathematical diagram using Cartesian coordinates to display values of two variables for a set of data. If the points are color-coded you can increase the number of displayed variables to three. The data is displayed as a collection of points, each having the value of one variable determining the position on the horizontal axis and the value of the other variable determining the position on the vertical axis. A good use case for this type of chart is when you want to chart frequency of occurrences or totals across two dimensions, such as Sales by State and Product Category.

scatter-chart-example

Pie Chart: A Pie Chart (or a Circle Chart) is a circular statistical graphic that is divided into slices to illustrate numerical proportion. In a Pie Chart, the arc length of each slice, and consequently its central angle and area, is proportional to the quantity it represents. A Pie Chart can only display one series of data. Excel uses the series identifier as the chart title (e.g. “Flowers”) and displays the values for that series as proportional slices of a pie. A good use case for this type of chart is when you want to chart the distribution of a value across a dimension, such as Sales by Salesperson.

 pie-chart-example

Variable Width Column Chart: Also known as a Marimekko or Mekko Chart, a Variable Width Column Chart is a bar chart where column widths are scaled such that the total width matches the desired chart width and there are no gaps between columns. A good use case for this type of chart is when trying to compare how a value is split across a dimension as percentages.

mekko-chart-example

3D Area Chart: 3D Area Charts display the trend of values over time or other categorical data, and use three axes (horizontal, vertical, and depth) that you can modify. A good use case for this type of chart is when comparing how a value is split across a category and how it trends chronologically such as Sales by Region over time.

3d-area-chart-example

Stacked Area Chart: Stacked Area Charts display the trend of the contribution of each value over time or other categorical data. It is recommended that you specify your Stacked Chart as such, so that your users understand the values presented.  A 3D Stacked Area Chart is displayed in the same way but uses a 3D perspective and does not use a third axis. A good use case for this type of chart is when trying to display how various parts add up to the total value over time. 

 stacked-area-chart-example

Stacked Column Chart: Stacked Column Charts display the part-to-whole relationship between categories, compared against similar much like a Stacked Area Chart.  This type of chart requires at least two dimensional categories; one for your stacked columns and one for the comparison category.  A good use case for this type of chart is when trying to display how various parts add up to the total value for a specific category.

stacked-column-chart-example

 

Brian Petersen

VP of Customer Engagement

With over a decade of Dynamics experience, Brian is passionate about working with people and organizations to help them better understand their data to make informed decisions.