Are you struggling to turn your data into meaningful insights that can improve your work or tell your organization's story? At Tableau, we want to empower nonprofits to make a difference with their data. With the right knowledge and tools, we believe every nonprofit can better explore its data and spot trends, outliers, and even new opportunities.
That's why we've partnered with TechSoup to offer basic data visualization tips in Beyond the Pie Chart. Once you've mastered these basics, Tableau's TechSoup donation program can help you create powerful, interactive data visualizations from almost any data source.
Part 1 covered some basic terminology and why you shouldn't use a pie chart. Below we share tips from our white papers, Visual Analysis Best Practices and Which Chart or Graph Is Right for You, to explain when to use a line chart or bar chart.
One of the most frequently used methods for analyzing data is to track a trend over time. In the example below, we want to see trends over time, by sector, in the flow of venture-financing funds. In our experience, some of the best visualizations for showing trends over time are line charts, area charts, and bar charts. In addition, you should try to put time on the X axis and the measure on the Y axis; that will help your view cater to our cultural conventions on trending.
First, let's look at the line chart below. We put year on the X axis and funding amount on the Y axis, and encoded sector type with color. What we can see from this view is that all sectors follow the same trend in funding over time. We can also see the trends of each individual sector and the differences between them. But what about the overall funding trend? Can you see exactly how much funding there is for all sectors in 2000 or any other given point in time?
The answer is no. Line charts do not have that capability. However, if answering these questions is important to you, you can explore area charts or bar charts (see below). Both of these chart types are great at amplifying total funding trends and how each individual sector contributes to the total over time.
When you have two or more line charts, fill the space under the respective lines to create an area chart. This informs a viewer about the relative contribution that line contributes to the whole.
Another method for analyzing data is comparison and ranking. For example, you could visualize volume of shirts in different sizes, website traffic by origination site, or percent of spending by department. In many cases, this shows us where we are and how we are doing. A bar chart is great for comparison and ranking because it encodes quantitative values as length on the same baseline, making it extremely easy to compare values.
Check out Visual Analysis Best Practices and Which Chart or Graph is Right for You for more tips.
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Image 1: Wes Holing
Images 2, 3, 4, and 5: Tableau
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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