Dataviz Challenge #3: Can You Make a Side by Side Bar Chart?

May 24th, 2013 / Data Visualization / , ,

Thanks to everyone who participated in the first and second dataviz challenges! I hope these challenges give you a chance to practice and build upon your Excel and visualization skills.
Last time, we made a streamlined version of the basic bar chart by adjusting Excel’s default settings. Basic bar charts are great when you’re just looking at simple patterns, like one series of data at a time.
However, sometimes we need to compare several series of data at one time. For example, the Innovation Network team and I recently compared the capacity of 12 different coalitions using our coalition assessment tool. We calculated coalition capacity in 7 different areas, such as Basic Functioning and Structure and the Ability to Cultivate and Develop Champions. To learn more about the tool, check out some materials from a recent presentation here.
The “before” chart: Here’s a clustered (aka cluttered) bar chart based on fictional data from the coalition assessment tool. The default Excel chart to compare Coalition A and Coalition B might look something like this:

default1

A default clustered bar chart in Excel. Bleh.


Or, you could use the switch row/column feature to make a default chart like this:

default2

Another default clustered bar chart in Excel.


These default clustered bar charts work… kind of. Well… not really. Actually, no, they really don’t work at all! My brain needs a couple minutes to read the default charts and really think about comparisons.
The “after” chart: Luckily, with a little Excel elbow grease, we can make the patterns pop out even faster. Here’s a side by side bar chart:
sidebysidebarchart
Now, my brain can see the patterns almost immediately: Both coalitions scored highest on Basic Functioning and Structure. Both coalitions scored lowest on Sustainability, with Reputation and Visibility scoring pretty low as well. Coalition A scored higher than Coalition B on every section of the assessment. The overall scores were 80% for Coalition A and 50% for Coalition B. Phew! This is much easier for my brain.
The dataviz challenge: Re-create the “after” version of the side by side bar chart in Excel, R, or some other free software program. When you’re finished, email me or tweet a screenshot to @annkemery.
Tips for beginner Excel users: First, learn how to make a basic bar chart. Then, check out this powerpoint for tips on making a side by side bar chart.
Bonus for advanced Excel users: Instead of copying this dataset exactly, think about how you might use a side by side bar chart in your own work. Can you re-create this chart using your own data or your own color scheme?
The prize for playing: Beer or coffee, my treat, the next time you’re in DC; a professional development opportunity; and bragging rights.
I’ll post the how-to guide in two weeks, on June 10, 2013. Happy charting!

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