Tuesday, 23 August 2011

What's wrong with this chart?

Well, what do you think? I'll tell you what I think in a day or two. (see below)

Update: 24th August
Wow, I was a little surprised and very happy to see so many comments. (I'll be honest, I was hoping to get one or two at the most!) I'm guessing everyone likes a challenge, and those who like charts especially so.

And I was doubly surprised that so many commenters picked up on what I was trying to convey, even with such deliberately little to go on. The problem, as I see it, is not the chart so much but it's reason for existence.

I was tempted to name the post "Charts, who needs them?" and this probably is not such a bad idea. What's motivated me to write this post is something I see on a regular basis, something I call "charts for no reason". Let's face it, the two values speak for themselves. A chart in this case adds little to no value.

Of course, this is my own opinion and not written in stone. But it seems that some agree and that is reassuring. Of course, I'm just as happy to hear from you who think differently so don't hold back (as if I had to tell you, right?)

Next time, I'll be looking at when a chart is a good idea and how to go about it.

PS. Thanks for the technical tips too. They're all valid and very much appreciated! Maybe it would be fun to have something like "Rate my chart". I know other bloggers do it but why not me too? :-)

PPS. I'm going to set comments to no moderation on a trial basis and see how things go.


  1. Ahhhh...Here are my thoughts:

    1. There are only two countries compared. The two countries compared are far apart in terms of population. Doesn't do anything for me. Give me some more comparisons.

    2. What is the intended point of this chart? Is it that the USA has a lot of people? Is it that Australia has very little people? Is it both? Not sure the chart's point.

    I guess the above doesn't really answer the question though. So other than that, the chart looks great!

  2. Extraneous legend for one thing. Don't really need the scale since the populations are labeled on the bars. Same with the gridlines--they are so far apart that they add nothing in terms of understanding.

    I guess that I wonder what the purpose of the chart is too. If there's a particular point it's trying to make then those changes may be adequate, or not.

  3. The title needs a change - it should be Population by Country, as the population is the measured item and is broken out by country.

  4. Hmmmmm, is it that the legend duplicates the axis entries?
    Or that the title implies a different grouping that the actual graph (country by pop. vs pop. by country)?

  5. Nit-picky things - numbers should be in millions, legend is redundant and the title could tell the data source and date.

    But most of all it needs more data to be worthy of bar chart status - trends over time, more countries, % of population that enjoys Fosters beer, anything interesting. Not sure what it's trying to tell the reader that requires visualization as is.

  6. Redundant with X Axis Labels and a Key to the side

    Redundant with Label Qty and Y Axis Labels

    Population by Country Label


  7. Maybe you dont need a chart for only these 2 values? Would be better if more data is displayed for comparission.

    In no paticular order:
    1) You dont need the values at the axis since youre displaying them at the bars
    2) Horizontal ticks are useless
    3) Legend is not necessary
    4) Maybe write 33MM and 22MM?
    5) Chart border is not necessary
    6) Make the gap between the bars smaller
    7) These colors adds nothing. Color them iqual, since its population we're measuring
    8) Horizontal lines: sometimes I find them ok. I like tuftes idea of white lines on top of the bars, but its not quick to make them in Excel

    At least the bars starts at 0...

    What did I miss?

  8. BTW, is comment approval necessary? =)

  9. Perhaps your numbers are a tad too precise for the inherent accuracy of the chart?

    Try this for some 'up to date' numbers :)

  10. The legend seems redundant with the labels.

  11. Thanks everybody for your comments. They are very much appreciated.

    I've update my post by means of reply.