Plot your data around the clock [Excel charting idea]

Posted on August 14th, 2008 in Charts and Graphs , ideas , Learn Excel - 12 comments

If your reports include hourly distribution of data like,

  • Customer footfalls in your store
  • Page views of your site
  • Customer service calls to your toll free numbers

here is an interesting charting idea to show the data around the clock (literally)

excel-time-series-bubble-chart-how


Update: Visualization pros Jon Peltier and Jorge Camoes took a critical look at this, nearly fainted ;) at the carnage of a familiar metaphor and posted their awesome reviews here:

Rock around the clock by Jon, he recommends a line chart over this for all the valid reasons
Charting around clock by Jorge, he suggests a neat looking 12 pointed radar chart as an alternative.

Both these are indeed fine examples of how shaking a familiar metaphor (analog clock) or way doing (usual bar chart for 24 hours) can bring a great discussion and excellent alternatives out of passionate people. Do read them :)


What you are seeing is essentially 2 bubble charts tweaked to look like wall-clocks with bubbles around the 12 positions.

This can be an interesting addition to your dashboards or daily report. Excited to find out how this is done? read on.

1. Get your data ready to plot it around the clock (circle)

sample-12-hour-data Let us build the above graph using fictitious page view data for each of the 12 hours since midnight till noon. The data is shown aside.

In order to create the around the clock affect we need to plot each of these hourly values around a circle at 12 points. Now, without getting all mathematicky to scare you, lets try to come up with simple explanation to find all the 12 points around the circle:

Assuming the radius of clock or our chart circle is 100,

  • Clock has 12 hour positions, thus each one is 30° (360°/12)
  • The first point’s x value would be: SIN(30°)*100
  • and y value would be: COS(30°)*100
  • For each of the other 11 points, we just need to use the multiples of 30: 60, 90, 120, .., 360
  • in excel spreadsheet you can find the values by ROUND(SIN(RADIANS(hour*30))*100,0), ROUND(COS(RADIANS(hour*30))*100,0)
  • We have to convert the degrees to radians since SIN(), COS() accept only radians as inputs

Once we are done, the data should look like this:

2. Plot the Bubble Chart

This is the easy part, just select the cells containing x,y and page view values and insert new chart, select bubble as the chart type. Make sure you have mentioned the x,y, and bubble sizes in correct places.

The fun part begins after creating the chart, as the dimensions may be skewed and you may get egg like circle, so adjust the dimensions and your 12 hour clock view is ready to go.

Use the same process to create another clock for hours from noon till midnight and juxtapose them on that dashboard or report, send it across to your boss or team, let the conversation begin :D

Download the template and play with it

Like this technique, why don’t you download the Data Around Clock – Charting Idea excel and play with it. Its available on the standard PAHF license (Poke Around, Have Fun)

Fun ways to enhance these charts:

  • Overlay a clock diagram in the background
  • Use sky color for the background, thus one clock has darker shades and other has brighter shades
  • Bubbles themselves can be colored as Sun colors, bright orange to yellow and back to orange

More on Bubble Charts: Why you should star retirement savings really early, Olympic Medals per Country in All Years

More on charting: Hack together a thermometer chart, tell a story with min-max charts, 73 awesome chart templates, download and wow

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12 Responses to “Plot your data around the clock [Excel charting idea]”

  1. Jon Peltier says:

    Well, this seemed like a good idea at the time. But this dual chart has some shortcomings. I’ve blogged about it:

    Rock Around the Clock

    It’s fun to try new ideas, but sometimes they don’t work out.

  2. [...] Chandoo, over PointyHairedDilbert, had “an interesting charting idea to show the data around the clock“: [...]

  3. Jorge Camoes says:

    Trigonometry, how I miss you…

    Fun, but not very efficient, is it? And I think you should split the data where it makes sense, not where our standards tell us to (try to start at 8:00 a.m./p.m. instead of noon/midnight).

    I kind of merged your and Jon’s chart:

    Charting around the clock

  4. Jon Peltier says:

    Jorge -

    I always enjoy using a little trig, but it’s so hard to explain to people.

    I have an alternative radially-oriented chart that doesn’t have to split the data. Perhaps this may cause less confusion. It’s in an update to Rock Around the Clock.

  5. [...] More on Clocks: Give your timeseries data a twist, plot around clock [...]

  6. [...] Plot your data around the clock, Chandoo proposed a complicated bubble chart to show website traffic vs. time of [...]

  7. [...] Plot your data around the clock, Chandoo proposed a complicated bubble chart to show website traffic vs. time of [...]

  8. [...] friend Chandoo proposed a chart to show website traffic vs. time of day in Plot your data around the clock [Excel charting idea]. He thought he’d use the analogy of a 12-hour analog chart, and put a bubble at each hour, [...]

  9. [...] two of them, since with two clocks you now have enough space to show all 24 hours. Here’s an example by Purna Duggirala that is essentailly a bubble chart that uses two clocks side by [...]

  10. [...] Chandoo, over PointyHairedDilbert, had “an interesting charting idea to show the data around the clock“: [...]

  11. Rongson.chen says:

    Wa~good idea, this chart will helpful to analysis visitor of Website. Real nice chart~!

  12. Shiva says:

    It’s good idea to have rotating data, will try to develop same with business data using trigonometry functions¬†

    Thanks for the idea  

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