Bar charts are a highly versatile way to visually communicate data. They are decidedly straightforward and can convey the message behind the numbers with impact and meaningful clarity, hence making complex data easy to understand at a glance.
Both bar charts and column charts display data using rectangular bars, where the length of the bar is proportional to the data value (simply put, longer bars equal bigger numbers). Both are used to compare two or more values. However, their difference lies in their orientation. A bar chart is oriented horizontally whereas the column chart is oriented vertically.
The bar chart's discrete data is categorical data and answers the question of "how many?" in each category.
When to use a bar chart
Bar charts are ideal for comparing the values of data that can be broken down categorically.
Bar charts are suitable when the number of categories is higher than 4 and lower than 15.
Column charts have limited space in the category axis. So, when your data labels are long, the category axis may look cluttered. Using a bar chart, will improve the readability of your visualization.
Example uses of a bar chart
If you are building a Sales dashboard, bar charts are great to visualize sales by region, sales by team or any other categorized KPI.
If you are building a Customer Support dashboard, bar charts are great to visualize support tickets by category, tickets solved per agent or even response times, assuming that you have defined clear categories to group by like in the following visualization:
Anatomy of the bar chart
The bar chart is a diagram in which the numerical values of the different variables are represented by the length of bars of equal width. The bars are drawn horizontally (along the x-axis) whilst the data labels that describe them are situated on the y-axis.
Tips for creating bar charts
Decide on a clear title. The title should be a brief description of the data that you want to show.
Use the bar chart for a maximum of 10-15 data sets. When the number of data sets is larger than that, using a bar chart is probably not the best way forward.
If possible, arrange the data sets in a descending order, this makes the comprehension of data much easier as your eyes follow a decreasing pattern. With the pattern, they can connect shape to value much quicker.
Use the Decimal Places feature to manually set the precision of numbers in your widgets, so that you can show the level of detail appropriate for your dashboard.
If needed, you can also override our automatic settings for what abbreviation and unit to show. Abbreviation, Decimal Places and Unit are part of the "Fine-tune" settings.
Abbreviation: Numbers can be shown in their raw state, or as Thousands (K), Millions (M), or Billions (B).
Unit: Allows you to manually enter any prefix or suffix up to 3 characters long. This means if you’d prefer to display your currency differently to our default option you now can. As examples you might want Swedish Krona to show as 100 Kr instead of SEK 100, or New Zealand Dollars to just have the $.