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6 charts you will see in hell

Posted on September 3rd, 2008 in Charts and Graphs , Featured , Learn Excel - 13 comments

6-charts-you-must-avoid-excel
Often it is easy to get carried away with a tools features. Excel is no exception. But here is a list of grotesque charts that you should never make, not even on your last day at work.

1. Leave the radar charts for Spidermen

why?

  • You can hardly conclude anything by looking at them
  • They need lot of tweaking to make sense
  • Visually revolting, even with perfect data points

2. Dont show, just eat your donuts

Too many donuts are bad for health

why?

  • This is the evil twin of Pie
  • Too many data points and it looks psychedelic
  • Very difficult to compare between series

3. Don’t add dimensions to your lines

excel spreadsheet 3d line graph - never use

why?

  • It is difficult to compare between series
  • Can lead to wrong conclusions
  • Often one series overlaps another to cause ambiguity

4. If one Pie is bad, two of them is worst

Excel pie chart disaster - never use two of them

why?

  • They provide very little information
  • It is useless to use two pies, when you can tell the story with just one

5. Dont make your charts look like downtown

excel avoid 3d column charts

why?

  • Lost information because of overlapping columns
  • Difficult to see patterns
  • Needs a lot of tweaking to make even the remotest sense

6. Save the unstacked area charts till we have x-ray vision

3d area unstacked charts are a perfect way to put your audience to sleep

why?

  • It is impossible to understand an unstacked chart in 2d, 3D makes it only worse
  • They need lot of tweaking to make some sense
  • Visually revolting, even with perfect data points

When in doubt, use a bar

More on charts: 73 beautiful excel chart templates – download free

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Written by Chandoo
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13 Responses to “6 charts you will see in hell”

  1. [...] Excel doesn’t have a gauge chart as a default chart type. They of course have a 3d line chart, but let us save it for your last day at work. Meanwhile we can cook a little gauge chart in excel [...]

  2. ROW says:

    Nice site and I would say clever use of excel but for this post I don’t really agree with #4.

    #4 is infact a v useful way of depicting sub divisions inside a particular category.

    If you are including everything in single pie, it will mean that those sub categories are different individual categories in themselves.

  3. [...] Chandoo offers a discussion of 6 charts you will see in hell. [...]

  4. Gerald Higgins says:

    I disagree with point #5 – downtown can be good, as long as you only have 2 or 3 Empire State Buildings, and everything else is 10 storeys or less (approximately !).

    I made one that I use at work – will be happy to post it here if I can work out how . . .

  5. Chandoo says:

    @Gerald: usually downtown charts look ugly even with few (10) rows of data. But in rare cases where only one item is very large compared to others (As in your case) they may look good.

    Btw, you can share your chart by saving it as an image and uploading it to a free host like flickr.com and linking it through comments. I know it is a bit lengthy process, but due to excessive spam I had to do this.

    Welcome to PHD :)

  6. [...] 3D Lines, 3D Columns with multiple series of data, Donut charts with more than 2 series of data… Get Full Tip 69. To improve comparison, replace your radar charts with tables… Get Full [...]

  7. [...] uses some of the more flamboyant and often avoided chart types like area chart, 3d area chart and a 3d donut area chart (oh dear God [...]

  8. [...] discussed alot about the kind of mistakes people make when creating charts (he *loved* the article 6 charts you will see in hell and the new chart doctor series we announced). We discussed about his new book – presentation zen [...]

  9. brad.baker says:

    Gotta agree with #1 comment. :3

  10. [...] importantly — let’s be honest here — numbers are boring to most people. A typical Excel table or graph isn’t capable of empowering and mobilizing people for broad social [...]

  11. I have the exception that proves the rule for Rule #1. I work at a power plant, and my gas turbine has an array of temperature probes in the exhaust. The probes are physically installed in a circular layout. Representing an actually circular array is the only good use of the radar plot. If my link worked, you should see an obvious dropping-off of temperature at probe #4.

  12. Manoj says:

    I have used radar charts ( be assured, i am not superman…… :) ) extensively to show process health of a plant / unit . The six points are different health parameters and the wider the rada opens up, it is better health

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