Bubble Charts: The Ultimate Guide

Your data’s alive, a story yet untold. Within it lies patterns, connections, a narrative of numbers whispering insights. Welcome to the world where bubble charts not only visualize data but speak its truth.

In the heartbeat of a web designer’s day, we craft clarity from chaos. Here, complexities of multidimensional data converge into a ballet of bubbles—each a character, their dance a data mapping revelation.

You’re here because deciphering stats should feel less like a chore, more like unveiling a secret.

By the journey’s end, you’ll wield the power to wield charting software like a maestro, orchestrating graphical representation with the finesse of a seasoned data visualization expert.

Expect no drab tutorial; we’ll dive into crafting interactive, informative, and visually striking plots—all through the lens of transforming avid numbers into aesthetic narratives.

You’ll leave with insights:

  • Mastering visualization techniques
  • Plotting with purpose with Excel chart types
  • Navigating nuances of visual analytics

Stride forward. Let’s unlock the potential of every bubble.

Table of Contents

  • What Is A Bubble Chart?
  • Bubble Chart Example
  • When To Use A Bubble Chart
  • How To Read A Bubble Chart
  • Types Of Bubble Charts
  • How To Make A Bubble Chart In WordPress
  • How To Make A Bubble Chart In Excel
  • How To Make A Bubble Chart In Google Sheets

What Is A Bubble Chart?

A bubble chart is a data visualization tool that displays three dimensions of data: two axis values determine the bubble’s coordinates, and the third dictates its size, allowing for comparison and pattern detection in multidimensional datasets.

Bubble Chart Example

Chart created with wpDataTables

When To Use A Bubble Chart

Choosing the right moment for a bubble chart? It’s like hitting the play button when the vibe’s just right. Dive into this pool when you’ve got layers of data—multidimensional stuff—craving the spotlight more than your average chart hero could handle.

Here’s the drill:

  • Loads of variables? Think size, sector, performance—check.
  • Visual storytelling on your to-do list? Bubbles can be your plot twist.
  • Comparing parts of a whole? Pull out pie charts. But when illustrating how elements float in the grand scheme—bubble charts are your jam.

Go for it when you want eyes on interactive charts, where your audience can tap, hover, and dissect. Bubbles can sway to this rhythm—each representing a slice of the data pie, but with an added kick: how much space they take up in this visual dance.

It’s all about context. Simple size comparisons? Maybe take a rain check. But when the moment calls for diving deep, letting the sizes tell as much story as the placement—bubble charts are the mic drop.

How To Read A Bubble Chart

Image source: Datylon

Start with the axes, they’re your foundation—X and Y, plotting the groundwork. Each bubble lands a spot here, right?Nothing new yet.

But size, that’s the third amigo, showing up, scaling up or down, based on what’s crucial—could be revenue, population, you name it.

Then, colors and sometimes even shades enter the scene. Like different flavors in a meal, they split groups, making it a breeze to see who’s who in the zoo.

And if there’s a legend, that’s your treasure map—decoding what each hue is whispering.

Each bubble’s position? Hints at its relationship with the variables on the axes. Size? That’s its volume dial for another dataset layer—usually something of value or magnitude.

Got it? Cool.

Now watch as the story unfolds, bubbles clustering, floating solo, or huddling in corners—each formation a clue to something more.

Types Of Bubble Charts

Stacked bubble chart. Image source: Art of Charts

Buckle up, ’cause in the world of bubble charts, it’s not just a one-style-fits-all scene. Variety’s the name of the game.

  1. Simple Bubble Chart: The most basic form, it displays data in three dimensions: the x-axis, y-axis, and the size of the bubble representing the third dimension (often a value).
  2. Colored Bubble Chart: Similar to the simple bubble chart, but it adds another dimension by coloring the bubbles. The color can represent a category or a fourth data dimension.
  3. Bubble Map: This chart places bubbles on a geographical map. The location of the bubble is based on geographical coordinates, and its size (and sometimes color) represents the data.
  4. Packed Bubble Chart: In this type, bubbles are packed together, often without axes, to represent data hierarchies or categories. The size of each bubble represents its value.
  5. Bubble Timeline Chart: This variant places bubbles along a timeline. The x-axis represents time, and the y-axis can represent different categories or variables. Bubble size (and sometimes color) denotes the value or significance of the event at that point in time.
  6. 3D Bubble Chart: This is an extension of the simple bubble chart into three dimensions (x, y, and z axes). The third axis can represent another quantitative variable, with bubble size still representing a fourth dimension.
  7. Bubble Cloud: Similar to a word cloud but uses bubbles. The size of each bubble represents a quantitative value. It’s more about visual impact and less about precise data representation.
  8. Multi-Series Bubble Chart: In this type, multiple series of data are plotted in the same bubble chart, often distinguished by different colors or styles of the bubbles.

How To Make A Bubble Chart In WordPress

To create a bubble chart in WordPress using wpDataTables, follow these steps:

  1. Open Chart Creation Wizard: In your WordPress admin panel, navigate to wpDataTables -> Create a Chart.
  2. Choose Chart Name and Engine: Define a name for your chart and select a rendering engine like Google Charts, Highcharts, Chart.js, or ApexCharts.
  3. Select Chart Type: Choose the desired chart type from the list provided by the rendering engine.
  4. Define Data Source: Select the wpDataTable that will provide data for your chart.
  5. Set Data Range: Specify which columns and rows from the table will be used in the chart.
  6. Configure Formatting and Preview: Adjust chart settings like width, height, background color, and axis options. Preview the changes in real-time.
  7. Save and Get Shortcode: Once satisfied with the settings, save the chart to generate a shortcode.
  8. Insert the wpDataChart: Use the generated shortcode to insert the chart into your WordPress post or page.

How To Make A Bubble Chart In Excel

To make a bubble chart in Excel, follow these steps:

  1. Organize your data in a table format with at least four rows or columns.
  2. Select your data by clicking and dragging your mouse over the cells containing the data.
  3. Insert the bubble chart by navigating to the “Insert” tab and selecting “Bubble Chart” from the chart options.
  4. Add a chart title and legends for clarity, using the “Chart Design” tab.
  5. Customize your bubble chart with color schemes, styles, and data labels from the “Chart Design” and “Format” tabs.
  6. Analyze your data by observing trends and patterns in the bubble sizes and positions.

How To Make A Bubble Chart In Google Sheets

To make a bubble chart in Google Sheets, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare Data: Arrange your data with columns for the series name, x-axis, y-axis, and bubble size.
  2. Insert Chart: Select your data, then go to “Insert” and choose “Chart.”
  3. Choose Bubble Chart: In the chart editor, under the “Chart type” section, select “Bubble chart” found within the “Scatter chart” category.
  4. Customize Chart: Assign data to the x-axis, y-axis, series, and size fields. Customize further under the “Customize” tab for styling options like font, border color, opacity, chart and axis titles, legend position, and axis ranges.

FAQ About Bubble Charts

What Are Bubble Charts Used For?

Bubble charts serve as a dynamic approach to data visualization, elevating beyond the usual bar or line graph. They’re stellar for spotlighting patterns in multivariate datasets, where each bubble reflects an entity, its size often linked to a specific data point like revenue or population.

What’s the Difference Between a Scatter Plot and a Bubble Chart?

Scatter plots—a duo of data variables getting along on a Cartesian plane. Now, invite another dimension, give these points volume, and voilà: a bubble chart emerges, upgrading data interpretation with a third variable represented by the bubble’s size, making comparative metrics even clearer.

How Do You Make a Bubble Chart in Excel?

Microsoft Excel is your pal here. Dive into ‘Insert’, snag a scatter plot, and start plotting. Adjust bubble sizes with a third data series entering the mix. Axis labels, legends, it’s all in the ‘Design’ and ‘Format’ tabs, tweaking to tell the tale right.

When Should You Not Use a Bubble Chart?

Think twice if you deal with just 1-2 variables, or if precise data comparison is your endgame—here, sizes can mislead. Plus, with a ton of data, your chart might morph into a bubbly mess. Simplicity craves alternatives like bar or line graphs.

What Software Can Be Used To Create Interactive Bubble Charts?

Beyond wpDataTables for WordPress-based charts, there’s Excel. You can grab Tableau for interactive sophistication, or cozy up with Google Charts for web charm. Got a penchant for code? D3.js and Plotly are your go-to for crafting responsive, web-embedded charts that chatter with the audience as they interact.

How Many Variables Can You Represent With a Bubble Chart?

Three’s company in the bubble chart squad. Two carve out the plane—think X and Y axes. The third? That’s bubble size territory. Stir in color or even animation, and you’ve snuck in a fourth or fifth variable, getting extra mileage from your data visualization prowess.

What Key Features Should a Good Bubble Chart Have?

Start with a clear legend and properly labeled axes. Ensure bubbles are sized proportionately, scaled to the data they represent. Inviting colors differentiate categories, while interactive elements like hover text spice up the user experience. Above all, maintain simplicity—no clutter, just insights at a glance.

How Do You Determine the Size of the Bubbles?

It’s all in the data. Establish a scale where the bubble’s area or diameter corresponds to the value of the third variable. Mathematical magic—usually squaring the radius—helps maintain proportionality. Careful now, skewed scaling can misguide an analyst’s eye.

Can Bubble Charts Display Negative Values?

Indeed, but with a twist. While axes can roam into negatives, bubble sizes can’t waltz into minus land—it defies the laws of bubble physics. Get creative, maybe hollow out those bubbles or offer up a different visual cue, making sure the story stays grounded in reality.


And there you have it—bubble charts in all their glory. A voyage through data visualization where each plotted sphere wasn’t just a size on a screen, but a multidimensional character in your data’s narrative.

With insights on wielding these bubbles both wisely and creatively, you’re now equipped to elevate those bare numbers into visual stories that capture attention, reveal underlying trends, and make interpretation a breeze.

To wrap up:

  • Embrace the power of bubble charts to distill complex data into comparative metrics.
  • Remember that charting software like Excel and Tableau are trusty sidekicks on this quest.
  • Visual analytics isn’t just about looks; it’s a tool to communicate data with meaningful impact.

Take these takeaways, chart new territories, and let those bubbles pop with possibility. Whether you’re a data scientist, a business analyst, or a storyteller at heart, let those bubbles float your data to the surface, clear, engaging, and ready to tell its tale.

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

There are also similar articles discussing pie chartscandlestick chartsline 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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