Avoid these 3 Mistakes When Using Bar Charts

Chances are, you have used excel and if you have used excel then you have probably used bar charts. These types of visualization may seem boring to some but they are easy to use and above all, extremely effective in communicating information. These rectangular shapes are designed to parse out data in a clear way that could be understood by anyone. Here are a few things to avoid when using bar charts:

Poor Scaling

(poor example)

It’s tempting to want to change the height of the bar chart in order to show differences. Yet when it comes to scaling, there are a few rules one should follow. In communicating information, it is important to be unbiased. You don’t want to be seen as the person who manipulates information just to get your public to like you. One good way to avoid this is by making sure your bar charts start at 0. This ensures the information you are presenting is fair and accurate. It helps establish credibility and reliability to your public and can go a long way when giving presentations.

(correct use of bar chart)

Too Many Variables

(poor example)

Bar charts are ideal for comparing items side by side so you want to avoid adding more than one variable. Use grouped bar charts if you have more than variable, but for simple regular bar charts stick to one. Explore ways to limit the amount of data for your chart. This could either be by focusing on a year looking at the various items or focusing on one item through defined period of time.

(correct use of bar charts)

Showing values at different points

(poor example)

Bar charts are effective because of its simplicity. It allows for parsing out data in a clear and effective manner. It does this by showing the value at a single point. Avoid using bar charts if you need to values for different points. With bar charts, simplicity is better. Use bar charts for emphasizing values at a single point.

(correct use of bar chart)