Area Charts: The Ultimate Guide

Ever stared at a sea of numbers and felt like you’re trying to read the tea leaves? Well, area charts turn that chaos into clarity. Picture this: waves of color sweeping across the screen, each hue ebbing and flowing like tides—this is data coming to life, telling stories of trends, highs, and lows over time.

Crack open the toolbox; we’re diving into visual analytics and the artful side of data visualization.

Far from just pretty designs, these charts are the secret sauce to transforming raw data sets into actionable insights.

By the final full stop of this exploration, you’ll have mastered not only the “how” but also the “why” of area charts.

From chart customization for that personal touch to harnessing them for comprehensive time series analysis, prepare to light that bulb of understanding over your head.

Feast your eyes on the following smorgasbord: the best charting tools to create your masterpiece, the lowdown on interactive charts, and nifty tricks for data trend analysis. Let’s raise the curtain on this show of shapes and statistics.

What Is An Area Chart?

An area chart is a graphical representation that displays quantitative data. Similar to line charts, with the addition of shading between lines and the baseline, it vividly illustrates volume changes over time, making it perfect for highlighting trends and patterns in a dataset.

Area Chart Example

Chart created with wpDataTables

When To Use An Area Chart

You’ve got data that unfolds over time—numbers that rise and fall like the breath of the market. Area charts are your go-to when such a story needs the stage. They shine with time-series data, where the ebb and flow of information paint the picture.

When different categories stack up to a total? That’s when a stacked area chart steps in, each layer adding its own hue to the narrative.

Chasing simplicity? Single data sets seeking the spotlight get their due with a basic area chart—no clutter, just the essence of rise and fall, the visual heartbeat of your data.

Always remember: the aim is to illuminate trends, not to overwhelm. Visual analytics is a craft, and knowing when to use this tool—that’s the art.

How To Read An Area Chart

Chart created with wpDataTables

Reading an area chart?

Start with the x-axis, mapping time or categories. As eyes trail up, the y-axis greets you with values. Where the dance of lines and shaded regions unfolds, that’s the narrative.

Peaks whisper tales of highs—those success stories. The lows, they speak of challenges, valleys waiting for the climb.

Shades between lines? They’re more than just pretty; they’re volumes over time, a subtle yet bold statement of cumulative action.

Remember, legends are your Rosetta stone here. Without them, it’s just abstract art. But with those data points labeled?

Now, the story unfolds.

Types Of Area Charts

Chart created with wpDataTables

Navigating the world of area charts is like picking the perfect tool for the job—each with its unique flair.

There’s the classic area chart, a lone ranger, perfect for the straightforward tale of one data set against the tides of time.

Up the ante, and stacked area charts come into play—think of them as your layered cake of data, each slice a different category, their sum telling a collective story.

Don’t want the layers merged? Percent stacked area charts keep things proportional, every category’s contribution to the whole crystal clear, no matter how the total fluctuates.

Need clarity over overlaps? Streamgraph injects a touch of style and grace, tackling data that dances over and under one another—a ballet of statistics.

Each type, a different lens to view the sheer spectrum of data visualization. Choose wisely; make the unseen seen.

How To Make An Area Chart In WordPress

To create an area chart in WordPress using the wpDataTables plugin, follow these steps:

  1. Open Chart Creation Wizard:
    • In your WordPress admin panel, go to wpDataTables -> Create a Chart.
    • Define a chart name for identification and choose a render engine (Google Charts, Highcharts, Chart.js, or ApexCharts).
  2. Data Source Step:
    • Select the table to be used as the data source for your chart using a simple select box.
  3. Data Range Step:
    • Use the Column Range Picker to select table columns for the chart. You can reorder items in the list and add or remove columns.
    • For Row Range Picker, choose individual rows or ranges. You can select cells directly or use checkboxes for rows and columns.
    • Optionally, use the “Follow table filtering” checkbox if you want the chart to adapt to table filters.
  4. Formatting and Preview:
    • Adjust basic chart options like width, height, background color, border properties, and more.
    • Customize series options (label, color, type) and axes options (grid, labels, crosshair, direction).
    • Set main title options, tooltip settings, and legend properties.
    • Configure exporting options for users to download the chart in various formats.
    • Use the live chart preview on the right side of the screen to see changes instantly.
  5. Save and Use the Chart:
    • Once satisfied with the preview, click “Save chart” to save it in the WordPress database.
    • A shortcode will be generated, which you can copy and use to insert the chart into a WordPress post or page.

This process allows you to create responsive and customizable area charts in WordPress, enhancing your website’s data presentation capabilities.

How To Make An Area Chart In Excel

To make an area chart in Excel, follow these steps:

  1. Set Up Your Data: Organize your data in a table format. The first column should contain labels (like years or categories), and the second column should contain corresponding values. For a stacked area chart, create additional columns for each sub-group.
  2. Creating the Area Chart:
    • Highlight the data range you want to use for the chart.
    • Go to Insert > Charts, choose the Line Chart group, and then select the second 2-D Area chart option.
    • An area chart will be created based on your selected data. You can modify its properties by selecting the chart and using the Chart options in the toolbar.
  3. Modifying the Chart:
    • You can add a title, change the legend, adjust axis font size, and more through the Chart options.
    • To further customize, you can start with an empty area chart object (Insert > Charts > Area Chart) and then use Chart Tools > Design > Select Data to input your data.
  4. Advanced Customization:
    • For more advanced options and flexibility beyond Excel, you can explore other visualization tools like Displayr’s area chart maker.

This process allows you to create both standard and stacked area charts in Excel, providing a visual representation of your data with the area between the line and the x-axis colored to illustrate volume.

How To Make An Area Chart In Google Sheets

To create an area chart in Google Sheets, follow these steps:

  1. Format Your Data:
    • First column: Data for the x-axis.
    • Second column: Data for the y-axis.
    • Additional columns (optional): For more areas in the chart.
    • Use the first row for series labels.
  2. Create an Area Chart:
    • Select the range of data you want to visualize.
    • Click Insert, then select Chart.
    • In the Chart editor sidebar, go to the Setup tab and choose Area chart from the Chart type dropdown.
  3. Customize the Chart:
    • To add a title, go to the Customize tab in the Chart editor, then click Chart axis & titles.
    • Select Chart title from the dropdown and type your title.
    • Modify the title font, size, and alignment as needed.
  4. Create a Stacked Area Chart:
    • Follow similar steps as above, but select Stacked area chart from the Chart type dropdown.
    • Ensure your data contains multiple columns for the breakdown of values.
  5. Create a 100% Stacked Area Chart:
    • This is similar to a stacked area chart but emphasizes the differences in composition over time.
    • Select 100% stacked area chart from the Chart type dropdown.
  6. Create Stepped Area Charts:
    • These charts combine features of column and area charts.
    • Choose from Stepped area chart, Stacked stepped area chart, or 100% stacked stepped area chart in the Chart type dropdown.

These steps allow you to create various types of area charts in Google Sheets, including simple, stacked, 100% stacked, and stepped area charts, each providing a unique way to visualize your data.

FAQ About Area Charts

How Do Area Charts Differ from Line Charts?

Think of area charts as the cool cousins of line charts. They share a lot of DNA, yeah, but area charts pop in color beneath the lines to highlight data volumes.

This visual oomph helps you quickly spot trends and the bigger picture of your data trends in a glance.

When Should I Use Stacked Area Charts?

Got layers of quantitative data needing some limelight? Bring in the stacked area charts.

They’re your go-to when you want to show how multiple components add up over time, making them a staple in visual analytics toolbox—great for dissecting those nuanced stories into digestible parts.

Can Area Charts Handle Negative Values?

Absolutely, they’ve got this covered. Area charts can accommodate the ups and downs, including the negatives.

When your values dip below the baseline, the chart paints a clear picture of decrease, pivotal for spotting downturns in market trends or contrasting data sets.

What’s the Best Way to Customize Area Charts?

To make your charts ‘you’, dive into chart customization. Adjust colors, tweak axis scaling, heck, throw in some fancy chart legends and labels.

It’s all about making your data’s narrative pop, and most charting tools—think Google Charts, Excel—offer plenty of levers to pull.

Are Area Charts Suitable for All Types of Data?

Like a tailored suit, some fits are better than others. Area charts shine with time-series data, highlighting trends and the progression of data points over periods.

For other data types? Might want to consider different graph types to better suit the story you’re telling.

What Should I Pay Attention to When Interpreting Area Charts?

Key things? Look at the peaks and valleys, they’re the heart of your story—they show change over time.

And don’t forget the axis scaling—misread that and your whole interpretation could go sideways. Always cross-check with your data points for the full picture.

Can Area Charts be Interactive?

In our digital world, absolutely! Modern charting tools have brought us interactive charts that let you hover, click, zoom, and probe deeper into the data.

It’s a hands-on approach to visual analytics—like your personal data detective kit.

How Do Area Charts Help in Business Intelligence?

Talk about a secret weapon. In the realm of Business Intelligence (BI), area charts help decision-makers see past the noise and focus on what matters.

They distill complex data trends into understandable chunks that make spotting opportunities and risks a walk in the park.

What are the Common Mistakes to Avoid with Area Charts?

Keep it simple and accurate. Don’t go wild with colors that can confuse. Steer clear of too many data series—data clustering much?

That only leads to a visual train wreck. And seriously, always make those axes as clear as daylight to avoid misinterpretation.


And there you have it—the grand tour of area charts. It’s like we’ve been on a safari through the savannahs of data, spotting the wildlife of trends and patterns in their natural habitat.

Chart legends have been our compass, and the colorful areas beneath the lines, our map.

  • No more guesswork, just clear, insightful stories told in swaths of color.
  • Visual analytics has never looked this good, right?

You’re equipped now. Whether it’s the ebb and flow of market trends or the subtleties of comparative analysis, you’ve got the know-how to conquer that wild world of data. Use your newfound skills to make those charting tools sing, crafting visuals that—let’s be honest—might just deserve a spot on your wall.

Remember, though, with great power comes great responsibility. Keep it clean, keep it clear, and let those area charts tell the truth of the numbers. Now, go forth and visualize!

Bogdan Radusinovic
Bogdan Radusinovic

Senior SEO and Marketing Specialist

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