Choosing the correct chart
Data visualisation can be expressed in different forms. Charts are a common way of expressing data, as they depict different data varieties and allow data comparison.
The type of chart you use depends primarily on two things: the data you want to communicate, and what you want to convey about that data.
These guidelines provide descriptions of various different types of charts and their use cases.
Types of charts
Change over time charts
Change over time charts show data over a period of time, such as trends or comparisons across multiple categories.
Change over time charts include:
- line charts
- bar charts
- stacked bar charts
- candlestick charts
- area charts
- horizon charts
- waterfall charts.
Examples of data sets that can benefit from using change over time charts:
- stock price performance
- health statistics
Category comparison charts
Category comparison charts compare data between multiple distinct categories.
Category comparison charts include:
- bar charts
- grouped bar charts
- bubble charts
- multi-line charts
- parallel coordinate charts
- bullet charts.
Examples of data sets that can benefit from using category comparison charts:
- income across different countries
- popular venue times
- team allocations.
Ranking charts show an item’s position in an ordered list.
Ranking charts include:
Examples of data sets that can benefit from using ranking charts:
- election results
- performance statistics.
Part-to-whole charts show how partial elements add up to a total.
Part-to-whole charts include:
Examples of data sets that can benefit from using part-to-whole charts:
- consolidated revenue of product categories
Distribution charts show how often each values occur in a dataset.
Distribution charts include:
Examples of data sets that can benefit from distribution charts:
- population distribution
- income distribution.
Flow charts show movement of data between multiple states
Flow charts include:
Examples of data sets that can benefit from using flow charts:
- fund transfers
- vote counts and election results
- project management.
Relationship charts show how multiple items relate to one other.
Relationship charts include:
Examples of data sets that can benefit from using relationship charts:
- social networks
- word charts.
Selecting the right chart to use
Multiple types of charts can be suitable for depicting data. How do you choose one chart over another?
Do you want to compare values?
Charts are perfect for comparing one or many value sets, and they can easily show the low and high values in the data sets.
To create a comparison chart, use these types of graphs:
Do you want to show the composition of something?
Use these charts to show how individual parts make up the whole of something, such as the device type used for mobile visitors to your website or files on a computer.
To show composition, use these charts:
Do you want to understand the distribution of your data?
Distribution charts help you to understand outliers, the normal tendency, and the range of information in your values.
Use these charts to show distribution:
Are you interested in analysing trends in your data set?
If you want to know more information about how a data set performed during a specific time period, there are specific chart types that do extremely well.
Do you want to better understand the relationship between value sets?
Relationship charts are suited to showing how one variable relates to one or numerous different variables. You could use this to show how something positively effects, has no effect, or negatively effects another variable.
When trying to establish the relationship between things, use these charts: