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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Understanding the Shortcomings of Stacked Column Charts

In a stacked column chart, Series 2 is plotted directly on top of Series 1. Series 3 is plotted on top of Series 2, and so on. The problem with this type of chart is that the reader can’t tell whether the values in the individual series is increasing or decreasing. The reader also might not be able to tell if Series 1 is increasing or decreasing. However, because all the other series have differing start periods, it is nearly impossible to tell whether sales in Series 2, 3, or 4 are increasing or decreasing. For example, in the top chart in Figure 3.33, it is nearly impossible for the reader to tell which regions are responsible for the increase from 2010 to 2015.

Figure 3.33

Figure 3.33. In the top chart, readers are not able to draw conclusions about the growth of the three regions located at the top of the chart.

Stacked column charts are appropriate when the message of the chart is about the first series. In the lower chart in Figure 3.33, the message is that the acquisition of a new product line saved the company. If this new product line had not grown quickly, the company would have had to rely on aging product lines that were losing money. Because this message is about the sales of the new product line, you can plot this as the first series so the reader of the chart can see the effect from that series.

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