When to use a number vs a gauge viz
Updated over a week ago

Gauges are typically used to visualize metrics having a single value. Because of this, it can be tempting to use gauges and single numbers interchangeably.

However, gauges are only a better choice in particular cases, such as when there's a clear scale range for the metric, like CSAT, which can only have values between 0% and 100%. On the other hand, if you want to keep track of MRR or any single value that doesn't have a precise scale, a number visualization is the best choice.

Why you should consider a number instead of that gauge?

  • Numbers support a secondary metrics/visualization, such as:

    • Compare to previous period - it is ideal to add context when seasonability is at play. Know more about the metric by comparing it to the last period (is it going up or down). You can choose to visualize the comparison as a percentage or an absolute number (you can also define if going up is good or bad)

    • Set a goal for the period. For example, if your CSAT is 97.78% at present, but you need it to be 99% and want to keep track of your progress towards that goal.

  • Numbers are more prominent. For example, suppose you want to ensure people know precisely how MRR is performing. In that case, a simple number is more straightforward and better uses the space, making the actual number more prominent.

Issues to avoid when using gauges

Using a gauge instead of a number can seem more appealing sometimes, especially when you have a goal in mind and want to (literally) see the needle hit it. But in reality, number visualization is a better alternative to keeping track of goals.

Moreover, choosing a gauge over a number and using the max (or min) value to set the goal can mess with the visualisation as you usually would be outside that min or max value. If you see a "warning" icon in the middle of your gauge, either min or max values are misconfigured. More often than not, numbers will be a better alternative to solve the root cause and visualize your data in the best possible way.

To learn more about best practices for gauges (and other visualizations). Head to our Data visualization techniques to display your key metrics

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