When to Use Bar Charts As an alternative of Pie Charts

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Except you’re a knowledge scientist or have one other job that generally makes use of information visualization, choosing the fitting option to characterize info can really feel overwhelming. Software program like Excel can stuff any sort of information into virtually any sort of chart—however which one is the proper one for the story you’re attempting to inform?

Bar charts and pie charts are two common ways of representing data, and whereas they will typically be used interchangeably, they don’t make sense for each sort of dataset. Right here’s how to decide on between a bar chart and a pie chart.

When to make use of a bar chart

Bar charts have two axes: classes (months of the yr) on one and numeric worth (the variety of guests to a nationwide park) on the opposite. So that you’re evaluating the full guests in January to these counted in different months, and maybe observing which months have essentially the most customer site visitors. Bar charts could be oriented horizontally or vertically.

Bar charts can be used to mix datasets or present how subcategories examine—for instance, the quantity or proportion of votes every candidate for workplace acquired damaged down by voter age group.

When to make use of a pie chart

Pie charts, however, present classes as a proportion of a complete. You’ll be able to consider the circle as the full—100%—and the width of every slice is decided by how a lot of the full it represents relative to the opposite slices. Utilizing the same instance, a pie chart might present the proportion of votes every candidate acquired out of the full variety of votes forged by all voters.

Pie charts are actually solely helpful when the person information factors you might be together with add as much as a complete, and that complete in itself is a part of the story. In the event you’re attempting to convey how an element is expounded to a complete—for instance, what proportion of your finances is spent on lease—a bar chart might not try this as clearly.

When to decide on a bar chart over a pie chart

There are a number of eventualities through which, regardless of the information representing components of a significant complete, a pie chart can be a poor alternative:

  • There are too many classes. If the pie slices are too slender, it’s troublesome to find out their relative dimension. Plus, the chart turns into crowded and labels and annotations are laborious to learn.
  • Slice sizes are too comparable. If pie items have proportions which are shut however not equal, the relative dimension could also be troublesome to interpret. At a fast look, and with out clear labels, pie charts might not clearly convey the precise proportion a slice represents.
  • You’ve gotten a number of datasets. Pie charts can solely characterize one dataset that, once more, provides as much as a complete. They can not examine salaries for sure job classes additional divided by gender, for instance.

Whereas pie charts are particularly good at exhibiting percentages relative to a complete, bar charts can be helpful for exhibiting percentages somewhat than absolute numbers, particularly when the above limitations exist or if classes aren’t mutually unique—for instance, a survey that permits customers to pick a number of solutions or classes for a single query.

Generally, use a bar chart whenever you’re evaluating class to class, and a pie chart whenever you’re evaluating half to complete. However a bar chart should still be higher for part-to-whole visualization in case you have a whole lot of components (greater than 5) or if the proportions of the pie slices aren’t simply identifiable (resembling multiples of 1/3 or 1/4). It doesn’t go the opposite means: pie charts aren’t helpful for category-to-category comparability if the entire doesn’t have any which means. The bottom line: bar charts are simply extra versatile than pie charts.


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