Among the most frequently used data visualization tools, column charts are very effective for comparing numeric values across categories. Column charts are a great way to quickly and efficiently compare data side by side, but there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your column chart is successful. By following good practices for column charts, you can effectively convey data sets and gain helpful insights for your next presentation.
Decide on the best type of column chart for your data.
When choosing the ideal column chart for your data, you’ll need to consider a few key elements. First, determine the number of data points to be included on your chart and whether you want to compare values across categories or within a single category. You will also need to consider the amount of space you have to display the data. If you’re comparing data sets from multiple clients or industries, for example, consider creating column charts for each set.
There are three main types of column charts: single-column, multi-column, and stacked. Single-column charts are best used when you want to compare values across categories. They take up less space than multi-column or stacked charts, so they’re ideal for small datasets. However, they can’t be used to compare values within a category.
Multi-column charts are good for comparing values within a category. They take up more space than single-column charts but can be helpful when you have a lot of data to show. Stacked column charts are similar to multi-column charts, but instead of showing different columns for each value, they show the cumulative total of all the columns in the chart. This is useful when you want to see how one value compares with the others.
Keep your charts simple and easy to understand.
Charts are a visual medium that, when formatted effectively, make it easy to gain insights from your data at a glance. Make sure to keep them free of clutter and easy to understand by following the best practices for column chart design:
- Use different colors or contrasting colors to distinguish between data points.
- Keep the chart title concise and informative.
- Label the axes with appropriate units of measure.
- Place the legend on the side of the chart or below it.
It’s a good idea to make notes regarding individual data points you wish to highlight or expand upon and any specific correlations between data points that need to be clarified.
Label the axes of your chart clearly.
Clearly labeling the axes will help ensure that your data is accurately represented and easy to understand. The x-axis, or vertical axis, should be labeled with the metric being measured (e.g. “Number of Sales”), and the y-axis, or horizontal axis, should be labeled with the unit of measurement (e.g. “Dollars”). These axis labels should succinctly describe the information and should not exceed three or four words.
Additionally, it is helpful to include a title for your chart to indicate the different values being measured and analyzed. As with the axes, the title should be short and informative, making it easy for your target audience to know what the column chart is expressing.
Format the gridlines and legend.
Formatting the gridlines and legend of your column chart can help improve clarity and understanding. The gridlines in a column chart should be thin and evenly spaced. You may want to format them differently for different data sets, but they should always be easy to see and follow. The legend should also be easy to read, with clear labels and enough space between items so that they can be easily distinguished.
Following these simple guidelines for column charts will help you create the best chart for your data in no time at all.