Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The case for pie charts

Pie charts get a lot of criticism these days. I must agree that bar charts deliver the message better because:

  • bar charts can present data for multiple categories without user interaction;
  • human eye is much better at telling differences between lengths than it is at determining differences between areas.

The charts below visualize the same data, and they all have the same size of 640x640 pixels. Decide for yourself which one does it better.

Pie chart in question - move your mouse or tap over radio buttons to change category:

Let's try a simple bar chart. Move the mouse or tap over radio buttons to change category:

Now it's a good time to remember what data visualization expert Kaiser Fung could say about these radio buttons: "Every extra button or knob you place on the graphic, you lose another batch of readers". Stacked bar chart to the rescue - all categories are visible at once:

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