One of the most basic chart types that visually communicate data is the bar chart, which is also one of the most useful tools for better analyzing and understanding your mathematical points. Many software programs offer a bar graph template to help further customize your data, whether it’s for a presentation to upper management or a school project.
If you are new to bar graphs, keeping reading for more useful information!
What is a Bar Graph?
Bar graphs are a type of visual chart that plots values for different levels of a categorized feature. Levels are added based on a chart axis with values being placed on the other axis. Each value comprises a single bar and the bar length corresponds to each bar’s specific value. The bars utilize a common baseline, so the audience can easily compare values.
For instance, visualize a chart that shows the number of purchases made on an eCommerce site by different users. The horizontal axis lists three user types: guest, new user, and existing user. The vertical axis shows the number of purchases in 2,000 item increments. If the guest purchases 2,000 units, the new user purchases 4,000 units, and the existing user 6,000 units each bar within the user type would raise the corresponding purchase number. This bar graph allows you to see that the new user purchases twice as many units as the guest and the existing user bought three times as many units as the guest.
When to Use a Bar Graph
A bar graph is best used when you wish to display an allocation of data points or compare numeric values across different groups. According to the study, The Effective Use of Bar Graphs, researchers note that the purchase of a graph is to present data too numerous to describe in text. A bar graph template will help you show the highest or most common groups and how other groups compare. Given that this is a common task, bar graphs are a commonly used chart format since they are easy to create and read.
In some instances, the values on the bar graph are a total, average, or another type of summary measurement computed individually for each group on the horizontal axis. For instance, if you want to plot the average payment amount per payment method (check, credit card, debit card, digital wallet, and cash), you would place the average amount on the vertical access and payment method on the horizontal access. A different chart type would be required to see each transaction related to the average amount.
Bar Graph Best Practices
The most important best practice is to ensure your bars are plotted against a zero-value baseline which helps with readability and comparison. Second, you never want to fiddle with the shape of the bars since it can muddy up the waters and make reading and comparisons difficult. Also, avoid having 3D effects on your bars as it can make measuring different lengths difficult. Third, ordering the bars according to category levels is beneficial. The most common method of doing this is by sorting the bars from longest to shortest to showcase a clear relationship between data points. Finally, an article by Scientific Direct highlights that color should always mean something, so it must be used sparingly. Highlighting specific columns can help you better tell a story.
Most tools can create visualizations including basic bar graphs. In all tools, you will have a choice of options that may likely need to be modified or checked to ensure best practices are being followed. The bar graph is one of many charts that can be utilized and is available in most programs so if you are looking to visually communicate your data points in the easiest and most readable manner, consider using a bar graph.