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

    Updated on: May 24th, 2013
    Data Visualization in Excel
    , ,
    Image of side by side bar charts, one red and one blue.

    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:

    Clustered bar chart.

    A default clustered bar chart in Excel. Bleh.

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

    Clustered bar charts with six different color bars.

    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:
    Side by side bar charts, one in blue and the other red.
    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!

    More about Ann K. Emery
    Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.

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