Search »

Data Visualization

Tips for Creating Great Charts

Here are a few tips for creating attractive, useful charts.

Know Thine Data

To produce an aesthetically appealing, clearly illustrative graph, you need to know about your data set. If your form had 1000 submissions come through in March, but none in the other months of the year, choosing to graph the entire year won’t be terribly useful. The cardinal rule is: know thine data.

Don't be afraid Adjust and Tweak

Secondly, graphing is something you do during and after submissions have come in. While you’re certainly welcome to create as many visualizations as you want before your form has any data in it, but when the data starts coming in, you may find that they’re not as valuable as you thought. We've found that you may often find yourself returning to the visualization to tweak the settings based on the actual data set.

Activity Chart Tips

Long durations = months, short durations = days

Pick the grouping count (days or months) based on the time period being graphed. It doesn't make sense to display the submission count for each day for the last 5 years: there's way too much information to graph. It'll take a long time to render and may appear blank because there's so much information!

Field Chart Tips

Use fields assigned to Option Lists

For Field Charts, pick fields that are assigned to Option Lists - not those that allow free entered text. Field Charts graph the total count of shared values, so if you pick an input field to graph, chances are

Omit Empty Values

The option to omit empty values is a very handy one. If the field isn't required in your form, you're going to have a lot of empty values which can throw off the graph.

Bars & Columns vs Pie Charts

Google Charts is pretty darn cool. It does a tremendous amount of clever stuff behind the scenes to make your chart look good. There's a subtle difference with the way it handles Bar / Column Charts and Pie Charts. If the field you are charting has value counts in a similar range - between 1000 and 1020, for example, then choosing to use a Pie Chart may not be much use: it will let you see at a glance that all have about the same counts, but nothing more. But if you choose a Bar or Column Chart, Google Charts will automatically adjust the axes to start at a higher number - thus reducing the range displayed, showing (say) 980 - 1020. This will highlight the differences in the values between the values entered in the field.