Intro to charts

everviz has over 20 chart types to choose from to visualize your data. 
Visualizations can be selected on a purely aesthetic basis. But that's not always the wisest approach. This is because each chart is specialized in visualizing certain kinds of data. Here, each chart type is described with the aim is to help you answer the question: what is the best chart for my data?  
Considerations include:
  • The size of your dataset. For example, treemaps are great for visualizing large data sets
  • Is your data categorical? Then a bar chart is a good choice
  • Is your data continuous, i.e. are your values represented over time? Then a line chart is a good choice
  • Do you want to highlight a correlation between two different variables? Then a scatter chart is perhaps the best option
  • Other types, such as the wind rose, serve a specific purpose and thus require specific kind of data 

Line chart

A line chart is a type of chart which shows how two variables are related. The data points are plotted (similar to a scatter chart) and then joined with a line. A continuous data variable such as time or distance is plotted on the x-axis and the measurement or value is plotted on the y-axis.

When should I choose a line chart?

Most commonly, line charts are used to visualize some value over time. A finance department, for example, might plot the shift in the amount of cash that the organization has on hand over time. The x-axis may be days, weeks, quarters or years, while the y-axis might display revenue in dollars. Line charts help to illustrate patterns and trends. They can also show anomalies or unusual events where the results deviate from the expected pattern. 

What kind of data suits a line chart?

Line charts are a good choice for displaying large data sets and how a value changes over time or another variable. Multiple lines can also be plotted on the same chart, allowing comparison of different series. However, line charts should not be used for categorical data: if you don’t have a continuous variable to plot on the x-axis, then a bar or column chart is likely to be more suitable. 

Bar chart

Both bar and column charts typically display categorical data and answer the question of “how many/much” for each group. In a bar chart, the data is displayed as horizontal bars (lines or rectangles), each with a length that is proportional to the value it represents. The category is displayed on the y-axis and the value is plotted against the x-axis. 

When should I choose a bar chart?

Bar charts are often used to compare values across different categories. For example, they might be used to show the comparative population size of different cities. 

What kind of data suits a bar chart?

Bar charts are a good choice for a visualization that shows the difference in values between different categories. Humans can easily visually distinguish the differences in bar lengths and understand how this relates to the size of the data. This means that bar charts are easier to interpret than charts that rely on area to depict the magnitude of a value. The horizontal orientation of a bar chart also makes it easier to display longer category names and it can usually accommodate a larger number of categories than a column chart. 

Column chart

Column charts are similar to bar charts in that they display categorical data and answer the question of “how many/much” for each group. In a column chart, the data is displayed as vertical columns (lines or rectangles), each with a length that is proportional to the value it represents. The category is displayed on the x-axis and the value is plotted on the y-axis.

When should I choose a column chart?

Column charts are often used to compare values across different categories. For example, they might be used to show the comparative population size of different cities. 

What kind of data suits a column chart?

Column charts are a good choice for a visualization that shows the difference in values between different categories. Humans can visually distinguish the differences in column lengths and understand how this relates to the size of the data. This means that column charts are easier to interpret than charts that rely on area to depict the magnitude of a value. The vertical orientation of a column chart can restrict the number of categories that can be included, so for larger data sets, a horizontal bar chart might be more effective. 

Pie chart

A pie chart, often referred to as a circle chart, consists of a circle or disc shape that is divided into sections. Each section in the chart resembles a slice of a pie and the area of each is proportional to the quantity it represents.

When should I choose a column chart?

The primary objective of a pie chart is to illustrate how different elements contribute to a whole. For example, a pie chart might be used to show how a company’s sales are broken down by region or by department. A larger segment of the pie would indicate that a greater proportion of the sales can be attributed to this category.

What kind of data suits a column chart?

Pie charts can be harder to interpret than column charts, but they remain a popular choice for small datasets. Our brain finds it hard to visually compare the areas of the slices, especially when there are many slices or when comparing ones that are not next to each other. In general, we recommend only using pie charts when comparing a small number of categories. If you have more than about 4 segments, then consider whether a bar or column chart would be easier for your audience to understand. 

Area chart

An area chart is similar to a line chart but with color or shading used to fill the area between the x-axis and the line. Data points are plotted against two variables on the x and y axes, and these are then connected by a line and the area below is filled or shaded. 

When should I choose an area chart?

Area charts are often used for showing how a variable changes over time, with time plotted on the x-axis. However, they can also be used for other variables, for example, showing how the elevation of a route changes over distance. Stacked area charts can also be used to show how the sum total is comprised of different categories or types. 

What kind of data suits an area chart?

When you want to show a pattern over time, but aren’t as concerned about displaying exact values, area charts can be a good choice. Stacked area charts are a good option for showing how the total consists of different elements, but these graphs can get difficult to read if too many series are included. In some cases, a line chart might be clearer if more detail is needed.

Dependency wheel

In dependency wheels, each point consists of multiple weighted links to other points. This chart type is often used to visualize data flow and can be a striking way to illustrate relationships in data.

When should I choose a dependency wheel chart?

Unlike most Sankey charts, dependency wheels can be used to show multi-directional data flow both to and from each point. For example, you might use a dependency wheel to show immigration patterns between countries. The perimeter of the wheel is divided into sections representing different counties. Lines from one country to another indicate the immigration patterns, with the line thickness being proportional to the number of people. 

What kind of data suits a dependency wheel chart?

Line charts are a good choice for displaying large data sets and how a value changes over time or another variable. Multiple lines can also be plotted on the same chart, allowing comparison of different series. However, line charts should not be used for categorical data: if you don’t have a continuous variable to plot on the x-axis, then a bar or column chart is likely to be more suitable. 

Scatter chart

A scatter chart uses dots to represent a data point according to two different numeric variables plotted on the horizontal and vertical axes.

When should I choose a scatter chart?

Scatter charts are useful for determining whether any relationships exist between the two variables. By identifying the relationship, this allows us to make predictions: we can determine the likely value of one variable if we know the value of the other. If the data points closely follow a pattern, this suggests a strong correlation, and the predictions are more likely to be accurate. However, if the data points are more widely scattered, then this indicates greater variation and predictions are less likely to be accurate. 

What kind of data suits a scatter chart?

Scatter charts are useful for showing larger data sets and they help us to identify any correlations as well as see any outliers. However, more complex relationships can be difficult to interpret, and so for presentation purposes, it might be more appropriate to process the data first and include trend lines or use a different chart type (such as a candlestick chart if you wish to preserve some statistical information).

Unit chart

In a unit chart, a symbol is used to represent a ‘unit’ of data. The number of symbols displayed allows for a simple visual comparison between categories. 

When should I choose a unit chart?

Often an appropriate icon or symbol can be selected that provides a visual indication of the data type it represents. For example, gender demographics might be displayed using male and female symbols. The unit representation can be chosen according to the data and described in the legend: for example, for national population demographics one symbol might represent 100,000 people, whereas, in a workplace visualization, one symbol might represent just 10 people. Where the data cannot easily be represented with different icons, colors may be used instead. For example, when comparing the population of different countries, a generic ‘person’ symbol might be used but assigning a different color for each country to facilitate visual comparison.

What kind of data suits a unit chart?

Unit charts are a good choice for presenting simple data in a visual manner that allows for a quick comparison of a few categories, especially when the different categories can easily be depicted with an icon or symbol.

Packed bubble

Packed bubble charts display data in a cluster of circles, with the size of the bubble indicating the volume of the data. The placement of the bubbles isn't really important, however it is optimized for compactness.

When should I choose a line chart?

To display data in a cluster of circles, use packed bubble charts. Individual bubbles are defined by dimensions, while individual circles are defined by measures.

What kind of data suits a packed bubble chart?

Packed bubble is not recommended if you need to precisely compare values of a group. Indeed, it is hard for the human eye to translate an area into an accurate number. If you need accuracy, use a barplot or a lollipop plot instead.

However, Packed bubble shows very well how groups are organised in subgroups. It uses the space a bit less efficiently than a treemap, but the hierarchy gets very neat.

Tree map

A Treemap displays data as a set of nested rectangles. Each group is represented by a rectangle, which area is proportional to its value. Using color schemes and or interactivity, it is possible to represent several dimensions: groups, subgroups etc

When should I choose a treemap chart?

Treemaps are used to show how the whole is divided. It is easy to understand which entity is the most important and how the whole is distributed among entities. The current Treemap in everviz supports one level (i.e not hierarchical data), just to show the value of several entities like in a barplot.

What kind of data suits a treemap chart?

Treemaps have the advantage of making efficient use of space, which makes them useful to represent a big amount of data.

Word cloud

A word cloud is a visualization that is used to show the frequency of words within a text or other format. Words are displayed in a visually attractive pattern with the most frequent words being assigned a larger font size to show their prominence.

When should I choose a word cloud chart?

Word clouds can be used to create a visualization of more qualitative data such as customer feedback surveys. Free text responses can be analyzed to find the most frequent words, and this gives an indication of the topics that people are discussing. 

What kind of data suits a word cloud chart?

Word clouds are good for drawing attention to data that is often quite difficult to display succinctly such as lists of keywords or topics of interest. However, data might need cleaning first to group together synonyms and remove non-important words such as “the” and “and”. Exact word frequencies cannot be visually identified from a word cloud, so if this is important a bar chart or column chart might be more appropriate. 

Sankey

Sankey charts are used to visualize data flow and volume between nodes. The wider lines indicate larger volumes of data.

When should I choose a sankey chart?

Unlike a dependency wheel, Sankey charts can be used to show how data flows across multiple stages (nodes). For example, a Sankey chart could be used to show sources and uses of energy within a factory or even nationally. The first (left-most) node might show energy input broken down by type (e.g. coal, gas, solar) and the second node might show which sectors use each energy type. Additional nodes can be added to show further detail on how the energy is used for different processes within each sector. 

What kind of data suits a sankey chart?

A Sankey chart is a good choice for visualizing data flow through multiple stages, especially where the data flows in one direction. However, if your data flows in two directions, you might want to choose a dependency wheel instead.

Stock

A stock chart is a graph that shows how the price of stock has changed over time. Often, stock charts will have two or more panes that give different information. The main pane is usually a line chart showing price fluctuations, but this information can also be presented in other formats (such as column, area or candlestick charts).

When should I choose a stock chart?

Stock charts will typically have additional panes below the main chart. These give additional information, for example, trading volumes might be presented as a column chart. 

What kind of data suits a stock chart?

Stock charts are useful for presenting data to an audience who is familiar with the type of graphical representation. However, it is necessary to choose the right type of stock chart for the data you want to represent and your audience. For example, line stock charts are good for comparing the performance of different stocks on the same graph, but a candlestick stock chart is useful for displaying the daily trading range for a single stock.  

Bubble chart

A bubble chart is a variation on a scatter chart, but which uses the size of the data point to depict an additional variable. Like in a scatter chart, the data points are plotted on the x and y axes according to two variables. However, the size of the bubble is determined by a third variable, so that larger values are shown as bigger bubbles. 

When should I choose a bubble chart?

The bubble chart provides an interesting illustration that draws attention to the largest values. For example, you could use a bubble chart to plot ‘average income’ against ‘life expectancy’ for a range of different countries, with the bubble size corresponding to ‘population size’. This would show any relationship between wealth and health, giving prominence to the most populous countries but also allowing any outliers to be easily identified. 

What kind of data suits a bubble chart?

A bubble chart can be a good choice for creating an attractive chart that gives information on three different variables. Bubble charts take a bit of time to absorb and understand, so they should be used sparingly and in accordance with the audience’s interest level.  

Polar area

Polar charts, also known as radar charts, are circular charts that are often used to compare multivariate data sets. A polar chart in everviz is simply a cartesian chart where the x-axis is wrapped around the perimeter. It can render common cartesian series types like line, column, area or area range.

When should I choose a polar chart?

Polar charts can be used for illustrating any areas of strength or weakness in performance categories. For example, they might be used to display audit or customer feedback results for different departments. If the resulting chart is not symmetrical, this would illustrate inconsistency between departments, highlighting any particularly strong or weak scores. 

What kind of data suits a polar chart?

Polar charts are a good choice for illustrating and comparing performance variables as they can highlight both strengths and weaknesses. While multiple series can be plotted on the same chart, it can get difficult to read if there are too many. For larger data sets it may be appropriate to use a different chart type, such as a bar chart or line chart. 

Wind rose

A wind rose chart is used to illustrate both the wind speed and wind direction at a particular point. The chart takes the form of a compass with each segment representing a direction. Data is depicted by columns extending from the center of the chart, the height of which indicates the length of time the wind was blowing from a particular direction. Stacked columns can also be used to provide further breakdown such as the length of time the wind speed was within a set range.

When should I choose a wind rose chart?

Wind rose charts can also be used to represent wind-related data other than speed. For example, they can be used for environmental data to show the direction and extent of air pollution or dust. 

What kind of data suits a wind rose chart?

A wind rose chart is useful for directional data because it is quite intuitive to depict this using a polar chart. However, the circular nature of the diagram can make it more difficult to visually compare the sizes of the columns, especially when a stacked format is used with several different categories. 

Boxplot

A boxplot chart summarizes the distribution of values within measured categories using boxes and whiskers.  A boxplot is a standardized method of displaying statistical data and consists of two parts: the box and the whiskers. The box is plotted from the first quartile (25th percentile or the median of the lower half of the data set) to the third quartile (75th percentile or the median of the upper half). The median (50th percentile) is also shown as a line across the box. The whiskers indicate the minimum and maximum data points.

When should I choose a boxplot chart?

Most commonly, line charts are used to visualize some value over time. A finance department, for example, might plot the shift in the amount of cash that the organization has on hand over time. The x-axis may be days, weeks, quarters or years, while the y-axis might display revenue in dollars. Line charts help to illustrate patterns and trends. They can also show anomalies or unusual events where the results deviate from the expected pattern. 

What kind of data suits a boxplot chart?

Line charts are a good choice for displaying large data sets and how a value changes over time or another variable. Multiple lines can also be plotted on the same chart, allowing comparison of different series. However, line charts should not be used for categorical data: if you don’t have a continuous variable to plot on the x-axis, then a bar or column chart is likely to be more suitable. 

Waterfall

Waterfall charts are used to visualize cumulative values, where each data point contributes to a running total. The data points are displayed as floating columns, often connected by a line to illustrate the sequential relationship. They are also sometimes known as cascade charts or bridge charts. 

When should I choose a waterfall chart?

Waterfall charts can be used to show how an initial value (e.g. a bank balance) is affected by a series of positive and negative values (e.g. income and expenditure).

What kind of data suits a waterfall chart?

Waterfall charts are ideal for illustrating how a starting value fluctuates across a series of increases or decreases.  They allow the creator to determine the categories of interest and label these accordingly. However, they can be difficult to interpret for those not used to them, and it can be difficult to accommodate more than about ten data points without overcrowding. Often the data can be displayed more clearly in a simple bar or column chart.

Spider area

A spiderweb chart or radar chart is a variant of the polar chart. Spiderweb charts are commonly used to compare multivariate data sets. 

This is accomplished by placing the x-axis categories radially around a central point and evenly spaced. A polygon is formed by plotting data from a single observation along the radial axis and connecting them. By displaying many polygons, layering them, and reducing the opacity of each polygon, you may fit multiple observations into a single chart.

When should I choose a spiderweb chart?

Spider charts can be used to rate things along three or more axes, allowing you to compare the advantages and disadvantages of different entities. For example, you might compare three different colleges by plotting the cost, faculty quality, campus facilities, and student life ratings for each.

What kind of data suits a spiderweb chart?

Spider charts are a good choice for plotting comparative data, especially when looking to identify strengths and weaknesses. However, there is a limit to how many different data points can be included without sacrificing readability, so for more complex data sets a line chart or column chart might be a more appropriate choice.

Dumbbell

Dumbbell charts are variants of column-range charts, where a low and a high value is given for each data point. The points are visualized as markers with a line between them, resembling a dumbbell.

When should I choose a dumbbell chart?

Dumbbell charts allow comparison between two points for each category. They are a good way to display changes or differences between two points in time. For example, you might use a Dumbbell chart to show how athletes’ performance has improved with training: Scores before and after the training program would be plotted for each athlete, and the length of the joining line would indicate the improvement. They are also useful for displaying data ranges as you can plot the minimum and maximum values with dot markers, joined with a line to indicate the range.

What kind of data suits a dumbbell chart?

Dumbbell charts are a good choice for visualizing a range of data or the difference between two conditions (e.g. before and after; minimum and maximum). However, if you have more than two conditions to compare, you might want to choose another plot type. 

Funnel

A funnel chart is often used to visualize how the volume of data reduces as it passes through stages of a process. The top of the chart (the head of the funnel) is the widest and contains the full extent of the data starting the process. The lower parts (the neck of the funnel) represent different stages of the process in order, moving down the chart. 

When should I choose a funnel chart?

Funnel charts are often used for displaying a company’s process for converting leads into sales. The uppermost section of the chart might represent all sales leads, the next stage might be qualified leads, and so on through the process until the narrowest section of the funnel represents actual sales. This gives a visual indication of where most potential customers are lost, indicating which stages of the sales process are least effective.

What kind of data suits a funnel chart?

A funnel chart is a good choice for creating a visual representation of data which reduces as it passes through a linear process. However, they tend to become hard to interpret if there are more than 5 or 6 stages in the process, so for more complex or non-linear processes another type of chart may be more suitable. 

Parliament

Parliament charts are used to show the number of seats held by each political party within a government. They take the form of a semicircular shape with dots to represent each seat. The dots are then colored according to the political party that they represent. Parties are grouped together so that the size of each can be visually compared. The semicircular shape makes it easy to see if one party has more than half of the seats representing an overall majority.

When should I choose a parliament chart?

Parliament charts are easy to interpret, especially when the parties can be represented by colors that are instantly recognizable to the reader. They are useful for visualizing different scenarios that might occur during elections as results become available. However, they might not be so useful if there are a large number of parties that cannot easily be distinguished by color. In this case, it may be more appropriate to use a different chart type that can be more easily labelled for ease of interpretation. 

Solid Gauge

Solid gauge charts are a simple way of representing a number within a range. The extent of the gauge represents the full potential range (e.g. the maximum possible value), and the gauge is filled to the actual value being displayed.

When should I choose a solid gauge chart?

Solid gauge charts are often used for dashboards and other quick visualizations of single data points. For example, a solid gauge chart might be used to show a score or user rating as it shows how close the value is to the maximum possible. For online visualizations, animation can be effectively used to show the gauge filling, thus drawing attention to high scores.

What kind of data suits a solid gauge chart?

Solid gauge charts are a good choice for displaying a single value within a range. They are easy and intuitive to interpret and can be visually compared to other gauges using the same scale. However, if you have a number of data points to compare, then another chart type (such as a column chart or radial bar) might be more appropriate.

Heatmap

A heatmap is a data visualization that uses color to depict the magnitude of each data point. Since color is being used to illustrate the value, this frees up both the x and y axes for identifying the data point. This means that heatmaps can be a relatively compact way of presenting quite complex data.

When should I choose a heatmap chart?

Heatmaps can help to show patterns across different data dimensions. For example, you might create a grid of months vs years and then use color to show sales for each month. This not only shows how sales have changed over time but also how they typically fluctuate during the course of a year. 

What kind of data suits a heatmap chart?

Heatmaps are a good visualization of general patterns and trends across two dimensions, but they have their limitations. They don’t show exact values and some people may not be able to distinguish between the different colors leaving them unable to read the chart at all. Where possible, it is recommended to also include the actual value as text or to choose a more accessible visualization type such as a bubble chart or line chart.

Stream graph

A stream graph chart is a type of stacked area chart where the areas are displaced around a varying central axis. This type of chart is good for displaying changes in data over time across different categories and it creates an attractive, attention-grabbing visualization.

When should I choose a stream graph chart?

For example, a retail company might use a steam graph chart to show how sales figures compare for different departments over time. This might reveal seasonal trends such as how garden and outdoor departments may dominate during the spring and summer months, whereas toys and games might be most popular in the lead up to Christmas. 

What kind of data suits a stream graph chart?

Stream graphs are good for showing an overview of the trends and patterns within complex data sets, but it is often difficult to decipher the details within the data. If you need to communicate more detail, then another choice may be more suitable: e.g. a fixed axis area graph is more effective if the comparison of values between categories is important. 

Timeline chart

A timeline chart depicts a sequence of events visually on a time axis. This shows how events or activities are distributed over a period of time.

When should I choose a timeline chart?

Timeline charts can be used to depict both past and future events. A company may use a timeline chart to give a visual overview of the key occurrences in their history from start-up through to the present-day showing events such as mergers or product launches. Timeline charts are also useful for illustrating a project schedule showing key milestones such as review dates, funding schedules, audits and much more. These charts can help you visualize which parts of a project will take the longest and where any bottlenecks might exist.

What kind of data suits a timeline chart?

A timeline chart is a good choice when you want to create a simple diagram that shows a small number of key events on a time axis. However, for more complicated schedules with multiple overlapping events, other chart types might be more appropriate. For example, a bar chart format could be used to create a simple Gantt diagram.

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