How to choose the right chart?

Charts are very useful to visualise data, facilitating their reading and analysis. However, for a chart to be useful, it has to show us something of value. And that’s why it is important to choose the right chart. We will use data from the Gapminder website [https://www.gapminder.org/] for showing some examples and use the main options in Microsoft Excel.

Column or Bar Charts
These charts are good to compare proportionality. A Bar Chart is a Column Chart. Whereas a Column Chart presents data vertically, a Bar Chart presents data horizontally. The choice between the two is up to you, whatever better serves your purpose. You can also choose to present data according to a certain order (for example, from the greatest number to the smallest number). Below, you can see a chart with the total population of the 15 top countries in 2021. It is quite visible how much China and India stand out from the other countries.

Pie or Area Chart
These charts also aim to show proportionality, but between a more limited number of variables. For example, they are good when you are using percentages. Below, you can see a chart comparing the number of people by income per region. It is quite clear that the red area (asia) stands out from other regions (because it has more people), but the yellow and green areas (Europe and America) have more people with more money (especially if you compare with the blue area – Africa).

Line Charts
Line Charts are good for showing the evolution throughout a certain period of time, usually through the years, but it can also be through the days, weeks, or centuries. Below, you can clearly see that the income per person in the USA has been slowly increasing whereas in China things look quite different. It is also clear that around the 1950’s something happened that influenced both countries.

Scatter Charts
These charts aim to compare two variables and see how there are related. Below, you can see a chart relating income with life expectancy. You can see that the greater the income, the greater the life expectancy.

 

Check other “How to…?” related to project management.

 

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