Bar Charts: The Ultimate Guide

Imagine unraveling stories hidden in numbers, all through the humble bar chart. A staple in data visualization, bar charts translate statistics into snapshots of insight, making complexity digestible at a glance.

Nestled in everyday reports, they quietly shape decisions from classroom projects to boardroom strategies. Yet, many miss the nuances that turn a good bar chart into a great one.

In this deep dive, the narrative woven by every bar will unfold. Together, we’ll journey beyond basic data representation. We’ll grasp pivotal design elements, from axis labels to color coding, ensuring every chart speaks volumes without a word.

Along the way, tools like wpDataTables, Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets will become our allies. As we dissect interactive bar charts and dashboards, these silent narrators will start to shout.

Table of contents

  • Bar Chart Example
  • When To Use A Bar Chart
  • How To Read A Bar Chart
  • Types Of Bar Charts
  • How To Make A Bar Chart In WordPress
  • How To Make A Bar Chart In Excel
  • How To Make A Bar Chart In Google Sheets

What Is A Bar Chart?

A bar chart is a graphical representation of data where individual bars represent different categories or groups. The length or height of each bar is proportional to the value or frequency of the category it represents.

Bar Chart Example

Chart created with wpDataTables

When To Use A Bar Chart

Simplicity’s the key here. When you have categorical data, like your favorite coffee shop’s best-selling drinks or the monthly traffic on your blog, it’s bar chart o’clock.

Pinpoint the scenario where you need to compare these distinct categories or show some trends over time and bam, bar charts are your go-to.

It clicks when you’re presenting data and clarity’s the goal. Think about the audience too.

If they need quick, clean insights without the frills, bar charts deliver. It’s all about taking those figures and making them stick with minimal fuss.

How To Read A Bar Chart

  1. Identify the categories on the x-axis.
  2. Look at the y-axis for the scale or values.
  3. Observe the length or height of each bar.
  4. Compare the bars to understand the differences in values or frequencies between categories.

Types Of Bar Charts

Vertical Bar Chart

Traditional format with bars extending vertically from the x-axis. Good for comparing frequency or amount across categories.

Horizontal Bar Chart

Chart created with wpDataTables

Bars extend horizontally from the y-axis. Useful when category names are lengthy or there are many categories.

Stacked Bar Chart

Chart created with wpDataTables

Shows the total amount for each category and subdivides each bar to display the contribution of individual components to the whole.

Grouped Bar Chart (Clustered Bar Chart)

Places bars for different categories next to each other for easy comparison. Useful for comparing multiple sub-categories within each main category.

100% Stacked Bar Chart

Chart created with wpDataTables

Similar to the stacked bar chart but scaled so that each bar represents a percentage (100%), making it easier to compare the proportion of sub-categories within each main category.

Range Bar Chart

Chart created with wpDataTables

Displays variation within the data, showing the start and end point of each bar.

Waterfall Bar Chart

Chart created with wpDataTables

A waterfall chart is useful for understanding the cumulative effect of sequentially introduced positive or negative values.

How To Make A Bar Chart In WordPress

Creating a bar chart in WordPress is easier when doing it with wpDataTables. How easy is it, though? Check out these quick steps:

  1. Open Chart Creation Wizard: Go to wpDataTables -> Create a Chart in your WordPress admin panel.
  2. Define Chart Name and Type: Choose a chart name for identification and select a render engine (e.g., Google Charts, Highcharts, Chart.js, ApexCharts). Then, pick a chart type from the list provided by the chosen engine.
  3. Select Data Source: Choose a wpDataTable as the data source for your chart.
  4. Set Data Range: Define the columns and rows from the table to be used in the chart. You can select specific columns and rows or ranges.
  5. Formatting and Preview: Customize the chart’s appearance (size, color, axis options, etc.) and preview it in real-time.
  6. Finalize and Save: Once satisfied, save the chart. A shortcode will be generated for embedding the chart in posts or pages.

How To Make A Bar Chart In Excel

First things first, pick the data you wanna show off in your chart. Head over to the Insert tab, find the Charts group, and click on your chosen bar chart type.

If you’re rolling with just one column of numbers, your bar graph will show a single data series. Got more columns? Expect a color-coded party with each series in a different shade.

Now, Excel’s got a bunch of bar chart types. Clustered bar charts are great for comparing values across categories. Stacked bar charts? They’re all about showing how individual items stack up to the whole. And if you’re into percentages, 100% stacked bar charts have got your back.

Feeling artsy? Play around with the chart’s layout and style on the Design tab. Quick Layout and Chart Styles are your go-to buttons for this.

But wait, there’s more! Excel lets you tweak the bar width and spacing. Right-click a bar, hit Format Data Series, and adjust the Gap Width slider. Want your bars to overlap or have some space between them? The Series Overlap slider’s there for you.

Got negative values? No sweat. Excel handles them like a champ. You might want to move the vertical axis labels to the left and play with different colors for negative bars to make them pop.

And if your data’s looking a bit topsy-turvy, simply reverse the order of data categories or sort your bar graph without messing with your data.

How To Make A Bar Chart In Google Sheets

Creating a bar graph in Google Sheets? Piece of cake! Here’s the lowdown:

  1. Select Your Data: Grab the cells with the info you wanna show off.
  2. Hit the Chart Icon: It’s chilling in the Google Sheets toolbar.
  3. Customize Your Chart: Dive into the chart editor to make it your own.

Now, let’s jazz it up a bit. Want to label your bars? Click the three dots on your graph and hit “Edit chart.” You can add labels for clarity. And if you’re feeling fancy, customize those labels – change the font, size, color, you name it.

But wait, there’s more! Google Sheets lets you tweak your bar graph to the max. Play around with the chart style, axis titles, and series colors. You can even adjust the axis labels and gridlines.

Got a bunch of data? Stack it up with a stacked bar chart. Just choose your dataset, including headers, and select ‘Stacked Bar Chart’ in the chart editor. Want to show percentages? Go for a 100% stacked bar chart.

FAQ About Bar Charts

Why Use a Bar Chart Instead of Other Charts?

Bar charts are like that reliable friend who’s easy to understand. They’re top-notch when you wanna compare different groups or track changes over time without causing a headache.

Plus, those bars make it easy to spot trends at a mere glance, way more straightforward than those fancy charts sometimes.

How Many Types of Bar Charts Are There?

So, you’ve got your standard vertical and horizontal ones. But things get spicy with the variations – stacked bar charts to show part-to-whole relationships, grouped bar charts for comparing multiple data series side by side, yeah? The options are there; it’s all about what best tells your data’s tale.

Can a Bar Chart Show Continuous Data?

Eh, it’s not their prime gig. Bar charts are champs with categorical stuff – think “types of fruit” or “different brands.”

If you’re wrangling continuous data, like, say, heights or weights, you’d be better off with a histogram. It’s similar but built precisely for that kind of data.

What Should Be Considered When Creating a Bar Chart?

You’ll want to tune into things like the axis labels, bar colors, and spacing. Keep it clean and focused. Oh, and make sure your scale interval makes sense so your message doesn’t get lost in translation.

How Do I Choose the Right Software for Bar Charts?

No sweat here – it’s about what you need. Need something user-friendly? wpDataTables, Excel and Google Sheets are your buddies. Looking for more horsepower? Go for Tableau or Power BI. Fancy jazzing up your design? Adobe Illustrator‘s got your back. Just align your choice with your mission.

Are Bar Charts Effective for Large Data Sets?

They can be, but only if you’re not cramming a ton of bars into one congested space. It’s all about the clarity.

Big data? Consider breaking it down into smaller chunks or pivoting to another chart type. Keep it clean, or your story gets muddy quick.

Can I Customize Colors in My Bar Chart to Represent Different Categories?

Totally, that’s actually a brilliant move. Colors can highlight different categories or even show progression.

Just be mindful – go for clarity, not a rainbow explosion. And consider those color-blind pals; make it accessible for them, too.

What Mistakes Should I Avoid with Bar Charts?

Avoid bombarding folks with too many categories, keep those labels readable, don’t mess up your scales, and seriously, spare us the 3D bars.

They’re like a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma – confusing as heck.

How Can Interactive Bar Charts Enhance Data Visualization?

Listen up, interactive bar charts are like the upgrade you didn’t know you needed.

They let folks drill down into the specifics, play around with the data, see different angles. They turn a static snapshot into a full-on conversation with your data. It’s engagement on steroids, truly.


And that’s a wrap on our little adventure through the world of bar charts. From the simple vertical streaks to those nifty stacked layers, we’ve seen some real game changers in the art of telling stories with data.

  • Remember how we kicked it with those chart design elements?
  • Had a throwdown with some visualization techniques?
  • Made pals with analytics reporting?

Yeah, that was all about giving you the power to spin numbers into narratives that stick.

So next time you’re staring down a beast of a data set, or need to jazz up that dry report, think back to the tricks and tools we unpacked here. With a bit of creativity and some smart moves, you’ll have your data not just talking, but singing.

It’s been real, and I hope you’re walking away with a kit loaded with insights and the confidence to let those bar charts fly. Here’s to making your info not just seen, but remembered. Keep it clear, keep it bold, keep it smart.

If you liked this article about bar charts, you should check out this article about pie charts.

There are also similar articles discussing candlestick chartsline chartsbubble charts, and waterfall charts.

And let’s not forget about articles on stacked bar chartsarea chartscolumn charts, and donut charts.

Milan Jovanovic
Milan Jovanovic

Product Lead

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