November 7, 2011
Makeover of a Makeover – Waterfall vs. Side-by-side Bar Chart
One of the great things about the data viz world is that people are always willing to listen, learn and share. Cole Nussbaumer over at storytelling with data (a great blog you should follow) recently conducted a visual makeover on some horrible charts submitted during a class she was teaching. and she was willing to share her data with me so that I could make my own viz. Where else do you experience such camaraderie?
The improvements she recommends are fantastic, but I recommended one improvement to this chart she created:
Typically when I see side-by-side bar charts I’m looking to compare the bars that are next to each other. However, in this case, the bars are not necessarily related; they are simply a list of expenses and income next to each other. I recommended she create a waterfall chart like this one done with Tableau:
To me, a waterfall chart communicates the expenses vs. income story of this data more effectively
- The bar sizes make comparisons easy. It’s clear that Programs are the largest expense and Grants are the largest income.
- You can easily see the total variance without having to do the math in your head.
- Other Expenses are much larger than Other Income. I wonder what’s included in those expenses. Looks like an area for investigation.
- This group should probably focus a bit more on Sponsorships so that they’re not so dependent on Grants.
I could have included labels for all of the bars, but I wanted to show the patterns and relative sizes without the numbers being a distraction.
P.S. I chose red/green bars for two reasons: (1) most people understand red as negative and green as positive when reading financial figures and (2) to annoy my friend Steve Wexler of the Data Revelations blog (another you should follow), who hates this color scheme more than anyone I know.