Column Charts: The Ultimate Guide

Ever found yourself swimming in a sea of numbers? Imagine guiding your audience to shore with the visual anchor of column charts. The power behind these towering graphics lies not just in their ability to elevate mere statistics but in transforming them into stories.

Delve into this realm, and emerge with a mastery over data that speaks volumes. Here’s the lowdown: we’re not just splashing color onto spreadsheets; we’re architecting comprehension.

From crafting statistical data representation to finessing chart legends, the journey we’re embarking on promises to convert complexity into clarity.

By the close of our exploration, expect your data visualization toolkit to brim with savvy – because yes, interactive charts and charting tools will be at your fingertips.

We’ll dissect column charts, unveil nuances in chart design principles, and even tip-toe into advanced territory with visualization techniques.

Table of Contents

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

What Is A Column Chart?

column chart is a type of data visualization that represents data with vertical bars, where the height of each bar corresponds to the value it represents. It’s a go-to for comparing different categories or showing variations over time within a single category.

Column Chart Example

Chart created with wpDataTables

When To Use A Column Chart

Dive into the column chart when clarity calls. Category comparison? That’s the sweet spot. Think sales figures across regions or survey responses rate per item.

Time series analysis tapping on the shoulder? Chart it. Year over year, quarter by quarter; watch trends rise and fall in neat, tidy towers.

Beware the siren song of too much data, though. Crowded? Chaos. Keep it crisp, keep it clean, with just enough bars to whisper, not shout. When details abound, and you’ve got sub-categories cozying up, stacked columns or a clustered chart layout might just be your knight in shining armor.

Remember, the right chart at the right time can turn data visualization into pure storytelling.

How To Read A Column Chart

Chart created with wpDataTables

Reading a column chart? Piece of cake once you get the hang of it. Start with the X-axis—this is where your categories flex. Sales figures, survey answers, whatever you’ve got. Then, cast your eyes skyward to the towering bars—each a soldier standing for a value.

The Y-axis, that’s the next stop. It’s marked with numbers—a scale, a ruler measuring success, loss, or change. The heights of the bars, they don’t just reach for the stars; they’re telling you “this is how much” or “this many.”

And those colors, each one’s not just a pretty face. They’re a secret code. One hue per category? You got it.

Top off the chart with a title that packs a punch—one quick glance and your audience should grasp the story’s heart.

So, lock in on the axes, decode the heights and the hues, and let the data dance before your eyes. It’s storytelling with statistics and you’ve got a front-row seat.

Types Of Column Charts

The world of column charts? It’s a colorful one. Bursting at the seams with variety. First up, the classic: Single Column Chart. It’s the straightforward, no-frills go-to.

Next comes its more complex cousin, the Clustered Column Chart. Picture several single columns huddled by category side by side, playing out comparison stories like a pro.

Enter the Stacked Column Chart.

Chart created with wpDataTables

It piles different data sets on top of each other, snug within a single column’s embrace. Great for part-to-whole relationships.

And for those really into the details? The 100% Stacked Column Chart takes the stage. It gives you the lowdown on percentages, each stack proportioned to a whole, showing just how each piece fits into the bigger picture.

Let’s not forget the 3D Column Chart, strutting depth and perspective.

Chart created with wpDataTables

But beware, it’s a tricky one—it can obscure as much as it reveals, all style and swagger.

How To Make A Column Chart In WordPress

To create a column chart in WordPress using the wpDataTables plugin, follow these steps:

  1. Open Chart Creation Wizard:
    • In your WordPress admin panel, navigate to wpDataTables -> Create a Chart.
    • Name your chart for easy identification and select a rendering engine (Google Charts, Highcharts, Chart.js, or ApexCharts).
  2. Data Source Step:
    • Choose the table that will serve as the data source for your chart using a simple select box.
  3. Data Range Step:
    • Use the Column Range Picker to select the columns from your table that will be included in the chart. You can reorder these columns as needed.
    • Select the rows for your chart using the Row Range Picker. You can choose all rows or specific ranges.
    • Optionally, use the “Follow table filtering” checkbox to have the chart adapt to any filters applied to the table.
  4. Formatting and Preview:
    • Adjust basic chart options such as chart width, height, responsive width, background color, border properties, etc.
    • In the “Series” category, select the type of chart as “Basic column” (for Highcharts) or “Column” (for ApexCharts) to create a column chart.
    • Customize the series options (label, color, type) and axes options (grid, labels, crosshair, direction).
    • Set the main title options, tooltip settings, and legend properties.
    • Configure exporting options to allow users to download the chart in various formats.
    • Use the live preview on the right side of the screen to see the changes in real-time.
  5. Save and Use the Chart:
    • Once satisfied with the chart, 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 enables you to create a responsive and customizable column chart in WordPress, enhancing your website’s data visualization capabilities.

How To Make A Column Chart In Excel

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

  1. Prepare Your Data:
    • Arrange your data with labels in the first column and values in the second column. This simple layout helps Excel interpret the data correctly.
  2. Create the Chart:
    • Select the range of cells containing your data (for example, A2:B6).
    • Go to the Insert tab, click Insert Column or Bar Chart, and choose Clustered Column.
    • Excel will create a basic column chart based on your data.
  3. Format the Chart:
    • You can change the colors of the columns using the Change Colors button on the Design tab or by selecting the columns and using the Shape Fill and Shape Outline buttons for more control.
    • Edit the chart title by clicking on it and typing your desired text.
    • Adjust other elements like axes, gridlines, data series, and more through the Format tab.
  4. Customize Chart Elements:
    • You can add or remove elements like gridlines and axes using the Chart Elements button.
    • To add data labels, choose Data Labels from the Chart Elements options and select a position like Outside End.
  5. Create Charts with Multiple Data Series:
    • For more complex data, select a range that includes multiple series (e.g., sales across different departments and store locations).
    • Insert a clustered column chart as before, and Excel will create a chart with multiple series.
  6. Stacked Column Chart:
    • To create a stacked column chart, use the same data range and select Stacked Column from the Insert Column or Bar Chart options.
    • This chart type is useful for comparing total values and understanding the contribution of each part to the whole.
  7. 100% Stacked Column Chart:
    • For comparing contributions more clearly, use the 100% Stacked Column chart. This makes each column the same height, emphasizing the relative contributions of each part.

How To Make A Column Chart In Google Sheets

To make a column chart in Google Sheets, you can follow these steps:

  1. Select the Data Range:
    • Open your Google Sheets spreadsheet and select the dataset you want to use for your column chart.
  2. Open the Chart Editor:
    • Go to the “Insert” menu at the top of Google Sheets and click on “Chart.” This opens the Chart Editor in a sidebar on the right side of your spreadsheet.
  3. Create a Column Chart:
    • In the Chart Editor, select “Column chart” from the list of options.
  4. Move the Column Chart to Its Own Sheet (Optional):
    • For a clearer view and editing space, you can move the chart to a new sheet. Click on the three vertical dots at the top right corner of the chart and select “Move to own sheet.”
  5. Customize the Chart:
    • Access the Chart Editor by clicking on “Edit chart” from the chart’s menu.
    • Change the chart’s title, axis labels, and style in the “Chart & axis titles” section.
    • Adjust the chart style, including background color and font, in the Chart Style section.
    • Edit the series appearance in the Series section of the Customize tab.
  6. Share the Chart:
    • Once you’re finished, you can share the chart with your team or specific people by clicking on the “Share” button. You also have the option to publish the chart or download it as an image.

FAQ About Column Charts

What’s the real deal with column charts compared to bar graphs?

Oh, it’s like a classic mix-up, right? The truth is, column charts stand tall and proud, plotting data vertically, which is spot-on for comparing categories across a single axis. They nail it when your categories are few and your want-to-impress level is sky-high.

Can I make column charts twinkle in Excel or Google Sheets?

Let me lay it out for you. Both Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are wizards in cooking up some chart magic. Stellar guides peppered within their interfaces will get you from data rookie to chart champ, making that column chart twinkle, no sweat.

What’s the secret to choosing the right type of column chart?

Believe it or not, it’s about your story. Stacked ones are your pick when you’re showing parts of a whole. Clustered? They’re your buddies when you’ve got different categories—think types of sneaks you sell—to compare side by side.

Any snazzy tips for making my column charts more user-friendly?

Visualization Techniques! Stick to concise labels, a legible font size, and choose contrasting colors that are easy on the eyes. Interactive charts are a game-changer for webbies. Hover details? Clickable legends? You bet. They turn your viewers into data explorers.

Why’s data visualization like column charts crucial in business intelligence?

It boils down to this – time is money and clarity is king. Column charts sharpen the dull edge of raw numbers, presenting them as insights. Visuals push the business intelligence narrative, where swift, surefire decisions are made.

How can I make comparative graphs with multiple data sets in a column chart?

No stress, here’s the drill. Multi-set columns, or clustered charts, are your golden tickets. Each data set gets its own column, cozy right next to the related sets. Color-code each set and your comparison turns into a vivid tale.

When are stacked columns more useful than simple column charts?

When it’s showdown time for multiple data points within a singular category. Stacked columns layer up the bits and pieces that total your whole, laying it all out in one comprehensive visual stack. If your story’s got layers, stacked is where it’s at.

What about 3D graphs? Are they better than 2D column charts?

Alright, I’ll level with you. 3D looks slick, but it’s a bit of a diva. It can distort data perception, giving style a leg up over substance. 2D keeps it real simple and straight, and that’s what makes your data shine true.

How do I decide the right scale for axis labeling on column charts?

Stay sharp here. Your scale needs to reflect the range of your data but keep it tight – no wild number leaps. Ensure every bar’s in view without squinting or scrolling. Precision in axis labeling equals respect for your readers’ time.

Do animations in column charts boost audience engagement?

You’re onto something. Animations are like the secret sauce—they make your column charts pop, drawing the eye and ramping up the interest levels. Just keep ’em subtle; let the data sing, not the special effects.


Wrapping this up, we’ve journeyed through the peaks and valleys of column charts, those vertical marvels that turn raw data into gold. From the nuts and bolts in Excel to sleek interactive charts, it’s been quite the ride.

You’re now armed to the teeth, ready to create visuals that not only talk but engage. Think dazzling data viz that keeps eyeballs locked. We’ve unraveled the mystique of graphing tools and laid bare the essentials of chart design principles.

Remember, balance is key—aesthetics with function, color with clarity, detail with simplicity. The goal? To make information not just seen but understood. And here’s the kicker: You’ve got this! Those statistical data representation skills are sharpened to a fine edge now.

Columns standing tall, your data’s story is now a visual powerhouse. Go on, make those numbers dance—your audience awaits.

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

There are also similar articles discussing pie chartscandlestick chartsline charts, and bubble charts.

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

Bogdan Radusinovic
Bogdan Radusinovic

Senior SEO and Marketing Specialist

Articles: 137