Histograms: The Ultimate Guide

Picture this: With a quick glance, you unravel a tale of numbers—a narrative woven by none other than a humble histogram. It’s more than just a graph; it’s the Rosetta Stone for statisticians and data enthusiasts, unlocking insights from endless streams of information.

In a world drowning in data, understanding the gist of distributions shouldn’t feel like deciphering ancient hieroglyphs. That’s where this guide strides in, offering a torch to illuminate the path through the caverns of data analysis. You’ll stride past the basics of these bar charts and delve into the rhythm of data binning, feeling the pulse of every discrete interval that sculpts your dataset’s story.

By the time you turn the last page, terms like ‘bell curve’ and ‘frequency distribution’ will be tools in your arsenal, not jargon in a textbook. And for those who wield code—whether it’s a dash of Python or a snippet of R—there’s a treasure trove to explore. Prepare for a deep dive into:

  • Crafting Histograms: Mastering plot construction.
  • Data Insights: Interpreting skewness and variance.
  • Software Savvy: Utilizing statistical software for advanced visualization.
  • Real-World Applications: Making data-driven decisions.

Embark on this expedition and transform raw data into visual stories that stand out in the digital mosaic of our age.

Table of Contents

  • What Is A Histogram?
  • Histogram Example
  • When To Use A Histogram
  • How To Read A Histogram
  • Types Of Histograms
  • How To Make A Histogram In WordPress
  • How To Make A Histogram In Excel
  • How To Make A Histogram In Google Sheets

What Is A Histogram?

A histogram is a graphical representation of data through bars, where each bar’s height indicates the frequency of data within a specific range, or bin. It’s used in statistics to give a visual snapshot of the distribution of numerical data, revealing patterns such as skewness and central tendency.

Histogram Example

Chart created with wpDataTables

When To Use A Histogram

Dive into the sea of data, and you’ll find scenarios begging for a histogram. Here’s the breakdown:

  • When you’ve got a boatload of continuous numerical data and need to visualize distribution patterns. Think age ranges in a population study or time spent on a website.
  • Unraveling when and where the numbers stack up, quite literally, in those towering bars or cozy valleys, offering insights into where most of your data points lay.
  • Determining the skew of the tale they tell—leaning left, coasting right, or standing tall like a skyscraper at high noon.

Histograms lay it all out at a glance. Whether you’re in the throws of statistical analysis, looking to pinpoint trends, or comparing sets of continuous variables, that’s when you reach for this tool. Like a lens focusing the blur into a sharp image, it brings data into crystal clarity.

How To Read A Histogram

Image source: LabXchange

It’s like eyeing a city skyline. Each bar’s got its own story, its height a yarn spun from the number of data points within a slice of the spectrum. Width? That’s your data’s neighborhood, the range it calls home.

Scan for the peaks and valleys; they’re the chatter of your data crowds, the buzz spots and the serene streets. Is there a towering skyscraper, central and imposing? Maybe you’re looking at a bell-shaped curve.

A lean to the left or right, it’s the data doing a side-step. That’s skewness talking. It’s telling you where the tail’s at—longer tales on the side it’s leaning away from.

Soak it in, top to bottom. That’s where the meaning unfolds, in the rise and fall of those bars—a story in numbers, waiting to be read.

Types Of Histograms

Image source: Think.design

Oh, the varieties you’ll find in the histogram family!

First up, Uniform Histograms. Picture this: every bar standing at the same height, a city where each building has been planned with equal floors. Equilibrium.

Then, shimmy over to Bimodal Histograms. Two peaks, two parties in town. It’s like having twin downtowns in one cityscape.

There’s the Bell-Shaped Histogram—classic. It’s the smooth rollercoaster with a rise and fall that mirrors life’s average adventures, the Mr. Popular of data distribution.

Don’t miss the Skewed Histograms, with their lopsided grins. Could be left, could be right, but they’re the ones that tell you which way the wind blows in your dataset city.

And, if you fancy a bit of edge, we’ve got the Platykurtic ones—flat-topped, spreading the love wide across the range, no single spike to rule them all. Keep an eye out; they’re oddly grounded.

Each type, a visual story, tells a distinct tale of the numbers behind the scenes.

How To Make A Histogram In WordPress

Here’s the approach that could be applied to creating a histogram with wpDataTables:

  1. Open the Chart Creation Wizard:
    • Navigate to your WordPress admin panel, go to wpDataTables -> Create a Chart.
    • Assign a name to your chart for easy identification and select a rendering engine (Google Charts, Highcharts, Chart.js, or ApexCharts might be available options, depending on the plugin’s updates).
  2. Define the Data Source:
    • Choose the table that will serve as the data source for your new chart. This is typically done through a simple selection box within the wizard.
  3. Set the Data Range:
    • Specify which parts of your data table you want to include in the histogram. This involves selecting the columns that contain the data points you wish to visualize.
  4. Formatting and Preview:
    • Customize the appearance and settings of your chart. While histograms might have specific options, you generally have the ability to adjust aspects like chart titles, colors, and the range of values displayed.
    • Use the live preview feature to review the chart’s appearance. If it’s not exactly as you want, you can go back and adjust the settings as needed.
  5. Finalize and Insert the Chart:
    • Once you’re satisfied with the chart, save your work. The plugin will generate a shortcode for your new histogram.
    • Use this shortcode to insert the histogram into your WordPress posts or pages.

How To Make A Histogram In Excel

To make a histogram in Excel, you can follow these steps, which cater to different versions of Excel:

Using the Analysis ToolPak (For Older Versions of Excel)

  1. Prepare Bin Numbers:
    • Enter the bin numbers (upper levels) in a separate column. Bins determine the intervals that your data will be grouped into.
  2. Access Data Analysis:
    • Go to the Data tab, find the Analysis group, and click Data Analysis. If you don’t see this option, you might need to load the Analysis ToolPak add-in.
  3. Select Histogram:
    • In the Data Analysis dialog, select Histogram and click OK.
  4. Specify Data and Bins:
    • Select your data range for the Input Range.
    • Click in the Bin Range box and select the range containing your bin numbers.
  5. Choose Output Options:
    • Specify an output range if you want the histogram to be placed in a specific location on your sheet.
    • Check the Chart Output box to generate a histogram chart.
  6. Finalize and Customize:
    • Click OK to create the histogram.
    • You can then customize the histogram by removing the legend, adjusting bin labels, changing the gap width to 0% for no spaces between bars, and adding borders for clarity.

Using the Histogram Chart Type (Excel 2016 and Later)

  1. Select Data:
    • Highlight the range containing your data.
  2. Insert Histogram:
    • Go to the Insert tab, click on the Histogram symbol in the Charts group, and select Histogram.
  3. Adjust Histogram Settings:
    • Right-click the horizontal axis and select Format Axis to adjust bin settings, such as bin width, number of bins, overflow bin, and underflow bin, to tailor the histogram to your data.
  4. Customize Your Histogram:
    • Further customize your histogram by adjusting the bin labels and appearance to match your preferences.

How To Make A Histogram In Google Sheets

To make a histogram in Google Sheets, follow these steps:

  1. Select Your Data Set: Highlight the range of data you want to analyze with a histogram.
  2. Insert Chart: Navigate to the “Insert” menu, then select “Chart.”
  3. Choose Chart Type: In the Chart editor that appears on the right side of the screen, click the drop-down menu for “Chart Type.” Scroll down to the “Other” section and select “Histogram.”
  4. Review Your Histogram: Once selected, Google Sheets will automatically generate the histogram based on your data. Take a moment to review the histogram to ensure it accurately represents your data.
  5. Edit Your Chart: For further customization, click on the three dots in the upper right corner of the chart and select “Edit chart.” Use the chart editor panel to make adjustments and customize your histogram. You can modify various aspects of the chart, including:
    • Chart Style: Adjust the appearance, such as showing item dividers or changing the bucket size.
    • Titles: Edit the chart title and axis titles for clarity.
    • Series: Customize the series settings, possibly adjusting the color or style of the histogram bars.
    • Legend: Modify the legend’s appearance or position.
    • Axes: Adjust settings for both the horizontal and vertical axes, including label formatting and range.
    • Gridlines: Customize the gridlines for better readability.

FAQ About Histograms

How Do You Read a Histogram?

Crack this code by looking at the bars. Height matters — it shows frequency. The taller the bar, the more data it represents in that range. Width? That’s your bin size, each bar’s slice of the data set pie. Orientation, spacing, it all tells a data story.

What’s the Difference Between a Histogram and a Bar Chart?

Here’s the scoop: Histograms deal with continuous data, think weight or time, and the bars touch to show it’s a range. Bar charts? We’re talking categories, like favorite colors or dog breeds, with gaps between bars ’cause each stands alone.

What Does the Shape of a Histogram Tell Us?

Shape-talk? It’s all about trends. A bell-shaped curve whispers ‘normal distribution,’ symmetric, like a well-placed hat. Skewness, though, has the bars leaning left or right, hinting at data dragging its feet or racing ahead. Each tilt and peak drops hints about the dataset’s story.

What is Binning and Why is it Important?

Binning—sounds like recycling, but for data. Chop continuous ‘stuff’ into intervals, or bins. Why? It tidies up data, making it easier to digest. Without proper bins, your histogram’s either TMI or ‘Not Enough Info,’ and nobody wants that.

How is a Histogram Used in Statistical Analysis?

Ah, the power play of graphs! It’s the go-to for revealing distribution secrets of a dataset, identifying outliers, and checking hypotheses. From bell curves to skewed tails, it’s a visualization heavyweight, showing the spread and peaks of sample data without breaking a sweat.

Can Histograms Show Probability?

Sure, in its own way. It’s not about predicting the lottery, but a histogram does show probabilities of data landing in certain ranges. Think of it like weather forecasting for data: can’t say it’ll rain, but can show if it’s likely!

What is the Importance of Choosing the Right Bin Size?

Bin size sets the rhythm. Too big, you’re missing out on the beat, losing detail. Too tiny, and you’re drowning in the noise, data overload. The sweet spot? That’s where each bin sings the right tune, enough to make sense without missing a beat.

How Can Histograms Influence Decision Making?

Armed with a histogram, you’re like a data detective. It doesn’t have crystal-ball vibes but reveals trends and patterns in plain sight. Businesses, scientists, policymakers—they all crunch numbers, looking for that ‘aha!’ moment in a histogram to guide informed calls.

What Software Can Create Histograms?

Welcome to the toolshed: Excel, SPSS, R—you name it. Writing software into the script of your data saga lets you whip up histograms like a pro baker, turning the raw, unsorted data-dough into delicious, insightful visual treats. It’s where the magic happens, on-screen!


So, we’ve had quite the adventure, haven’t we? Across the landscape of bars that rise and fall, each one marking a beat in our data’s rhythm, histograms have shown us the raw beauty of numerical stories.

  • We’ve seen that not all bars are created equal; like the individuals that make up a crowd, each one contributes to the collective narrative.
  • We’ve meandered through binning strategies, appreciating how these seemingly arbitrary decisions can sculpt clarity from chaos.
  • From skimming peaks of frequency distributions to scouting valleys of cumulative data, our journey’s been nothing short of insightful.

As we come to the end, remember the power that lies within your grasp. The ability to visualize your data can ignite change, inform strategies, and provide compelling evidence for your decisions.

The chatter of numbers distilled into visual harmony – this is the essence of histograms, turning statistical analysis into art, and data insights into informed action. Carry this knowledge forward, and let each dataset sing its unique song through the bars of a well-crafted histogram.

If you liked this article about histograms, you should check out this article about line charts vs candlesticks.

There are also similar articles discussing box plotsscatter plotsfunnel charts, and pie charts vs bar charts.

And let’s not forget about articles on pie charts vs donut chartsscatter chartsgauge charts, and how to choose the right chart for your data.

Milan Jovanovic
Milan Jovanovic

Product Lead

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