Tag Archives: bar chart

New-ish Charts for Evaluation

You know the drill: Better charts = better communication = better understanding = better decision making. Whether you’re trying to highlight the most important findings, simplify that lengthy report, or just get someone to open your report in the first place, charts can be one of your strongest communication tools.

Ready to move beyond the typical pie chart or line chart? Today I’m covering 4 awesome charts that are under-used (but extremely useful!) in evaluation.

Social Network Maps

Johanna Morariu's map of the #eval13 hashtag

Johanna Morariu’s map of the #eval13 hashtag

Although social network maps aren’t brand new to evaluation (read about them on aea365 here), I had to mention them because I’m still surprised how many evaluators aren’t using social network maps.

Social network maps help you understand relationships between organizations, people, or even conference attendees. But beware – social network maps aren’t for everyone.

Want to create your own? Check out Johanna Morariu’s tutorial on using NodeXL, a free Excel plug-in.

Tree Maps

Tree maps are for hierarchical or nested data, and they’re great for showing part-to-whole patterns. 

Here’s an example from Innovation Network’s State of Evaluation research in which Johanna Morariu, Kat Athanasiades and I examined the proportion of nonprofits demonstrating promising evaluation capacities and behaviors:

Sample treemap from State of Evaluation 2012

Sample treemap from State of Evaluation 2012

(Can you imagine that same data in a bar chart? It just wouldn’t work; all the relationships between nested variables would be lost.)

Want to learn more? Check out Johanna Morariu’s example that breaks down participants’ gender, age, and whether or not they completed a program. 

Dot Plots

Dot plots are similar to bar charts and clustered bar charts (but in many cases, they’re easier to read and a lot less cluttered).

Here’s a 5-minute overview about what dot plots can be used for:

(Better) Bar Charts

And don’t forget about the good ol’ bar chart, your go-to chart for most of your datasets.

But not all bar charts are created equal. It’s no longer acceptable to paste that default draft chart straight  into your report; you should expect to spend a few minutes cleaning up every single chart to improve its labeling and overall readability.

Once you’ve mastered the basic bar chart, try your hand at one of these newer variations, like a diverging stacked bar chart, floating bar chart, or small multiples bar chart. The bar chart’s versatility make it the most essential chart for evaluation.

Have you used any of these charts for evaluation purposes? Are there other new-ish charts you think the evaluation world should be aware of? Please share your ideas with the community!

Dataviz Challenge #3: The Answers!

Two weeks ago, I challenged readers to re-create the “after” version of a side by side bar chart. You can read the full post here.

Congratulations to the 9 contestants! Click on the contestant’s name to see their chart.

Now it’s time to post the how-to guide.

Step 1: Study the chart that you’re trying to reproduce in Excel.

We’re trying to re-create a side by side bar chart like the one shown below. We’re comparing how Coalition A and Coalition B scored on Innovation Network’s Coalition Assessment Tool.

sidebysidebarchart

Step 2: And the secret to making side by side bar charts in Excel…

…is that we’re going to make two separate bar charts, one for Coalition A and one for Coalition B. When we copy and paste the charts from Excel into PowerPoint or Word, they’ll look like a single cohesive chart.

finished_product

Step 3: Type the data into Excel.

Make sure you choose a purposeful order to your data, like the highest percentage on top and the lowest percentage on bottom.

Excel often flips the data table upside down when creating charts, i.e. if you want the overall scores to be at the bottom of the chart, then you need to put the overall scores in the top of your data table. (Or, you can reverse the order of the categories later on.)

step3

Step 4: Create the first bar chart.

You know the drill: Add data labels inside the end of your bars. Choose a color palette that matches your client’s logo or your own logo. Use an action color to draw the reader’s eye where you want it (in my example, the overall score). Delete unnecessary ink like the tick marks, grid lines, and border. Use gray to de-emphasize things like (n=7) and the axis labels. Reduce the gap width.

step4

Beginner Excel users: If you need extra instruction, check out how to make a basic bar chart and my Excel for Evaluation chart tutorials.

Step 5: Copy the first chart.

Rather than re-create the wheel when making the second bar chart, let’s save some time by simply copying the first chart.

step5

Step 6: Populate the second chart with Coalition B’s data.

Use the “select data” feature to put Coalition B’s percentages into the chart.

step6

Step 7: Adjust the second chart’s bar color and title.

step7

Step 8: Delete the second chart’s axis labels.

Yep, you’re right, the second chart’s bars are going to get waaaaaay too long. We’ll fix this in Step 9.

step8

Step 9: Re-size the second chart.

Here’s my super scientific secret for making sure each chart is the same size: I measure the plot area with a business card.

First, adjust the first chart's plot area so that it's the width of a business card or post-it note.

First, adjust the first chart’s plot area so that it’s the width of a business card or post-it note.

Next, I adjust the second chart's plot area so that it's the same width as my business card.

Next, I adjust the second chart’s plot area so that it’s the same width as my business card.

Step 10: Paste the charts into PowerPoint or Word.

Select both charts and paste them into PowerPoint or Word at the same time. Here’s what it looks like on a slide. Looks like a single chart!

step10

Bonus

Click here to download my Excel file.

Dataviz Challenge #3: The Side by Side Bar Chart

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!