Data visualization is a key facet of a proper data management system within an organization. The ability to identify patterns and trends through analytics is crucial. But without proper demonstration of their value, they become a moot point. Even the simplest of charts, like column charts, allow for a clearer understanding of a query to make comparisons, getting a better grasp of what these values truly mean to the past, present, and future of a business.
Understanding Column Charts
A column chart is a method for displaying data with categories represented by a rectangle. Sometimes referred to as a vertical bar chart, these allow for easy comparisons among a number of items for analysis of patterns and trends. Statistics can be difficult to understand when presented in a written format on a table, so column charts make things much easier to grasp. These differ from bar charts, as a bar chart plots the variable horizontally and fixed dimension vertically, opposite of column charts. They are often talked about interchangeably, but there’s more to each than meets the eye.
As one of the more common charts utilized by data professionals, there are various scenarios where column charts can convey information in a clear manner. The data sets need to have a small number of discreet categories, each with a single value. The charts need to be able to compare these values for each category, with the goal being making information easy to understand. In business settings, column charts are regularly used in reporting. Whether the data is the sales information or customer analysis, these charts provide a ton of flexibility.
When to Use Column Charts
Within a column chart, the Y-axis should start at zero. In a few cases, it’s possible to crunch the scale at the bottom. Unless chart creators use specific colors for a reason or doing groups of data, it’s important to stick to one color. Too much color can be distracting. If the actual figures are important, it’s beneficial to remove axis labeling and write corresponding values at the end of a column. Be sure to consider the gaps between these columns as well, making distinctions between the data sets being translated over for interpretation.
At its simplest, these vertical bar charts compare a range of categories in a single measure, allowing readers to judge each category against its counterparts, such as displaying sales performance. Seeing how changes over a timeframe is another excellent use of these charts. Oftentimes, line charts can be replaced with a column to demonstrate items like internet traffic over the span of a few months. Total sales in various branches can be demonstrated through these charts, showing different group performances against overall performance.
There are different types of column charts suited to different situations. Clustered column charts, for example, group items together. This could be for the analysis of sales by a retailer, with groups symbolizing each branch and total sales for each division within the branch. This is common for investors in businesses that are publicly traded companies to have a better assessment of the retailer, better grasping the forward progress of that company.
There are also stacked column charts, adding up to 100 percent with aggregated figures to easily show percentages of total volumes across categories or timeframes. A department store chain may use a stacked column to show the percentage of sales each salesperson has achieved at a given location. With multiple stores, each one has a stacked chart showing overall sales for that branch and the percent of sales achieved by that clerk.
With the ability to have an overall view of an example problem, and with custom formatting, it can be easier than ever for decision-makers to see the facts that are driving an organization.