Donut Charts: The Ultimate Guide

Ever walked into a modern art gallery and found yourself hypnotized by a masterpiece that’s both simple yet unfathomably deep? Now, hold that fascination. What if I told you data, with its myriad of numbers and complexity, can evoke that same allure through a donut chart?

Immersed in the world of visualization techniques and larger-than-life info dashboards, these circular statistical graphics cut through noise, offering a snapshot of data that speaks volumes. It’s not just about visually pleasing aesthetics; it’s about clarity, comprehension, and instantaneous insight.

Dive into this unconventional narrative as we unwrap the mystery behind transforming percentage visualization and multivariate data display into a compelling story anyone can grasp. Unearth the secrets of chart design best practices as we navigate the dashboard elements typically reserved for the pros.

By the final period, you’ll have the tools to masterfully craft donut charts that resonate, communicate, and illuminate. This is the canvas where stats meet art, and you’re the artist.

What Is A Donut Chart?

A donut chart is a circular graph that’s hollow in the center, used to display categorical data in a series of segments, each representing a proportion of the whole. Like a pie chart with a twist, it effectively visualizes percentages and comparative data in an easily digestible format.

Donut Chart Example

Chart created with wpDataTables

When To Use A Donut Chart

A donut chart? It’s the go-to when simplicity needs to dance with data. Say there’s a bunch of proportional relationships, right? You want them to speak volumes, yet with a minimalist touch. That’s when this sleek wheel of stats shines.

If there’s a dynamic dashboard, humming with life—pop in a donut chart. It becomes the visual pause, the clear beacon in a sea of interactive charts. And it’s not just the eye-candy lure; this graphical tool slices through percentages, serving them on a silver data platter.

So, whenever the tale of parts to a whole begs to be told—reach for the donut chart. Just a few categories? Perfect. You’ll own the narrative and hold the audience spellbound without a word. That’s the sweet spot for this data storyteller.

How To Read A Donut Chart

Chart created with wpDataTables

You’re scanning a donut chart, the colors, the arcs—each segment tells a story. Start at the top, where the midnight meets noon. That slice? It’s your biggest player. Trace the arc, eye the legend, it meets its match in data points.

Now, orbit the chart: each slice’s size? We’re talking proportions. Larger the arcs, the heftier their command on the whole.

Colors aren’t just for show; they’re the silence between the notes, dividing data segments for swift comprehension. And the donut hole isn’t just a quirky feature; it’s a focal point that resets your view, beckons your focus.

It’s more than just a tool for percent visualization; it’s a zen garden of statistics, where each pebble of data finds its place. Want to grasp the essence of your chart? Look for the color keys, follow the arcs, and let the segments whisper their quantitative tales.

Types Of Donut Charts

Exploring the realm of donut charts, several varieties unfold before the eyes.

Begin with the Standard Donut Chart, a singular, elegant loop delineating data with understated grace.

Enter the Multi-Level Donut, a more complex cousin, layering rings like an onion, each one representing a deeper dive into data subdivisions. It’s advanced, revealing patterns within patterns.

And then, the magic of Interactive Donut Charts. These beauties come alive with a click or hover, offering details on demand—a conversation of sorts between user and data.

Ever met a Progress Tracker Donut? It’s goal-oriented, a visual motivator tracking milestones as they inch from start to triumphant finish.

Image source: ExcelKid

Every type, from simple to intricate, serves a unique purpose in the dance of data visualization. It’s about picking the right partner for the data narrative you’re eager to spin.

How To Make A Donut Chart In WordPress

To create a donut chart in WordPress using the wpDataTables plugin, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open Chart Creation Wizard:
    • In your WordPress admin panel, go to wpDataTables -> Create a Chart.
    • Name your chart for easy identification and choose a rendering engine (Google Charts, Highcharts, Chart.js, or ApexCharts).
  2. Define Data Source:
    • Select the table that will be used as the data source for your chart using a simple select box.
  3. Set Data Range:
    • Choose the columns and rows from your table that you want to include in the chart. You can use the Column Range Picker and Row Range Picker for this purpose.
    • If you want the chart to adapt to table filters, use the “Follow table filtering” checkbox.
  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 “Doughnut” or a similar option depending on the rendering engine you chose.
    • 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 donut chart in WordPress, enhancing your website’s data visualization capabilities.

How To Make A Donut Chart In Excel

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

  1. Input Data into the Worksheet:
    • Open a new worksheet in Excel and input your data. For example, you can input data about companies and their market shares in different years.
  2. Create Your Donut Chart:
    • Select the dataset you want to use for the chart (e.g., cells A2: B7).
    • Go to the Insert tab, find the Charts group on the ribbon, and click the pie icon to open the drop-down menu. Choose the desired donut chart.
    • Alternatively, click Recommended Charts on the Insert tab, then select the donut chart icon and see the pre-made template.
  3. Adjust Your Donut Chart:
    • To add another rim to the chart and compare data in different years, right-click on the chart area and choose Select Data. You can also click the Select Data button on the Design tab.
    • In the Select Data Source window, click Add under Legend Entries (Series) to open the Edit Series dialog box. Select the second data range and enter the series name.
    • Modify the series name if needed.
  4. Customize Your Donut Chart:
    • Double-click on the chart title to change it.
    • Right-click on one of the rims and choose Format Data Series to adjust the size of the hole in the donut chart. The smaller the percentage, the bigger the hole.
  5. Move Your Donut Chart:
    • To move the chart, select it and click Move Chart on the Design tab or the contextual menu. Choose where to place your chart, either in a new sheet or in an existing worksheet.
  6. Change Chart Type (Optional):
    • If you want to change the chart type, find the Change Chart Type button on the Design tab or the contextual menu. Choose a different type of chart if needed.

How To Make A Donut Chart In Google Sheets

To create a donut chart in Google Sheets, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare Your Data:
    • Ensure your data is displayed in a clean and organized manner. This will facilitate the creation of the donut chart.
  2. Select the Data:
    • Select the entire data cell range that you want to use for the donut chart.
  3. Insert the Chart:
    • Choose Insert from the menu, then select Chart.
  4. Create a Pie Chart (Intermediate Step):
    • By default, Google Sheets will generate a pie chart using the selected data. This pie chart is the basis for creating your donut chart.
  5. Customize the Chart:
    • Change the chart title to something relevant, like ‘Survey Result’. You can also adjust the text color, make it bold, and align it to the center for better emphasis.
  6. Create the Donut Effect:
    • To transform the pie chart into a donut chart, select the desired percentage for the hole size in the middle of the chart.
  7. Finalize and Review:
    • After customizing your chart, you will have a donut chart representing your data.

Donut charts are effective for displaying data with a few categories (typically 2-5) and are used to illustrate a “part-to-whole” relationship where each component represents a portion of the whole.

FAQ About Donut Charts

Can a Donut Chart Display Multiple Data Series?

Absolutely. Think concentric circles, like the ripple effect when you toss a stone into a serene lake.

Each ring can hold its series, letting you compare multiple datasets. But a word of advice—keep it simple. Too many layers, and it becomes a data soup.

What’s the Main Difference Between a Donut Chart and a Pie Chart?

At first blush, similar vibes. Key distinction? Donut charts sport that hollow middle. Why should you care?

That space can hold extra info, a neat summary, or just give your eyes a break. Visualization-wise, some argue it’s easier to process than its pie cousin.

When Should You Use a Donut Chart?

Crunching numbers that need a dollop of clarity? Donut charts are your go-to when simplicity with a side of impact is what you’re after.

Excellent for illustrating parts of a whole without overwhelming. But remember, they’re most effective when you’re dealing with a limited number of categories.

Are Donut Charts Effective?

Depends on who you ask, but they’ve got charisma. When your data’s straightforward, and you want to hand it off in a clean, digestible format, donut charts can strike the perfect balance of insight and aesthetics. Just don’t weigh them down with too much data—they’ll lose that crisp edge.

How Do You Make a Donut Chart in Excel?

Get this—Excel’s got tricks up its sleeve. Fire up a pie chart and then just dial in that ‘Doughnut Hole Size’ under the pie chart options.

Customize it, color it, make it yours. Suddenly, you’re not just crunching numbers; you’re a data artist.

What Are the Best Practices for Donut Chart Design?

Less is more. Stick to a handful of segments, and give them breathing space. Colors? Make them stand out but not shout.

Legibility is key – ensure those labels are clear. It’s about making data approachable, inviting even. You want to guide, not confuse.

Can You Show Progress with a Donut Chart?

For sure. Picture this—a full ring equals the end goal. Fill that ring bit by bit as you creep towards completion. It’s like watching a video game loading screen, where every tick gets you closer to playtime. Interactive, engaging, and perfect for a quick progress check-in.

Are There Any Disadvantages of Using Donut Charts?

Spot on. They’re nifty, but not without their kryptonite. Jam-pack them with data, and their message gets muddy.

Not great if you need to display detailed comparisons either. And watch out for too many categories; it can turn into a kaleidoscope of confusion. So, wield them wisely.


As we wrap up our stroll through the visual stats garden of donut charts, it’s clear we’ve uncovered something special. These clever circles aren’t just pretty faces in the data visualization ballroom; they serve up slices of insight with a side of visual punch.

Sure, they’re not all-powerful – few things are when it comes to storytelling with data. Yet, when used judiciously, they cut through the clutter.

Their power? Simplicity paired with elegance, delivering percentages and proportions like a well-told narrative.

So next time you find yourself knee-deep in datasets, longing to transform numbers into a narrative that resonates—lean on these crafty ring charts.

Remember, data visualization tools are only as mighty as their wielder. Use data representation wisely, and let the donut chart do what it does best: depict your data with clarity and a dash of style.

Bogdan Radusinovic
Bogdan Radusinovic

Senior SEO and Marketing Specialist

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