Common chart types
Assuming you have a clean and useful data set (beware, most data is not clean and needs some work before creating a chart), and assuming that you know what your data is about and which particular point you want to illuminate with your chart, you’ll have to decide on the chart type you want to use. Each chart type has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to showing and evaluating data. Let’s have a look at the most common ones.
There are, of course, other types of charts, dealing with specific data of a more financial or scientific nature, like stock charts, or gantt diagrams, etc. For the sake of brevity and general usefulness, I’ll leave those for you to explore on your own.
How to choose the right chart?
In the first section, you have seen the main chart types and what they are used for. You can, of course, base your decision about which types you use on your own preference, or the audience you expect to see at your presentation. However, here are some tips to help you make your choice based on which story you want to tell with your data.
General tips when using charts
While the choice of chart is paramount to making your point and using the data to its full capacity, there are a couple of basic points to think about when creating your chart and making it look just so.
In addition, there are a whole lot of additional options to make your charts stand out more: a range of trend lines, rounded lines, custom data markers, background images, calculated fields, etc. My general rule is “stay away from those, unless you need them to clarify something”. There is a danger of going overboard and wanting to beat the ‘other’ presentations by dazzling the audience. Keep in mind: the audience wants facts, most of all. If those facts are nicely dressed up, all the better, but that is not a prerequisite to get your point across.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when creating charts, and that is without even touching on the technical aspects and the tricks and problems you might run into when preparing your data and transforming it into charts. My advice here is to make sure your data is obviously telling your story: that could be in the form of text, or tables or charts. If in doubt, choose the simpler one. It will save you time that can be put to better use.
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