Scatter Charts: The Ultimate Guide

Ever stared at a sea of numbers, feeling like you’re deciphering an ancient code? Scatter charts transform that enigma into clarity. They’re the cartographers of data, mapping the relationship between two variables on a canvas bristling with plotted points, each dot a story about correlation—or sometimes, the lack thereof.

In this deep dive, we’ll navigate the waters of data visualization where scatter plots reign. As a web designer with an eye for clarity and function, my toolkit often includes these graphical powerhouses. They reveal patterns, suggest trends, and even whisper hints of outlier tales. It’s compelling, actionable intelligence—visualized.

By article’s end, you’ll not just grasp the nuances of crafting these charts, you’ll wield the tools—like Microsoft Excel and Python’s Matplotlib—with the finesse of an artist. The journey will cover:

  • Crafting your chart: a step-by-step guide
  • The DNA of data points: interpreting what you see
  • Aesthetic meets analysis: design principles for maximum impact

En route, we pull up the curtain on the role of scatter graphs in data science and business intelligence—because when numbers meet design, stories unfold.

Table of Contents

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

What Is A Scatter Chart?

scatter chart is a type of data visualization that uses dots to represent the values of two different variables, allowing you to see patterns, relationships, or trends. Each dot corresponds to a single record, plotting one variable along the x-axis and another along the y-axis.

Scatter Chart Example

Chart created with wpDataTables

When To Use A Scatter Chart

Dive into a scatter chart whenever the moment’s ripe to dissect the dynamics between two numerical entities. Suppose we’re noodling over how sales figures cavort with marketing spend; that’s classic scatter chart territory.

They’re like detectives for the data-savvy mind, revealing whether variables tango tightly or if one’s stepping on the other’s toes without a rhyme or rhythm. Kick into gear a scatter chart if you’re hunting for correlations or plotting a course through a treacherous landscape of bi-variate analysis.

When the relationship beckons a detailed look—not just a fleeting glimpse—scatter charts are your go-to crew, illuminating the path, from data points to trend lines. They slice through the fog of numbers, guiding you to those aha! moments when clarity emerges, crisp and unclouded.

How To Read A Scatter Chart

Image source: from Data to Viz

Alright, check it—reading a scatter chart is like peeling back the layers of a story. Kick off by eyeballing the axes—these bad boys anchor your tale.

Now, those dots scattered across the grid? Each is a whisper of data, a breadcrumb of numerical info. See a cluster? You’ve got a potential storyline, a hint at a relationship.

If those dots ascend together, think of them as buddies, showing off a steady, positive correlation. Dissenting dots painting a downhill path? That’s the drama of a negative correlation.

But hey, if it’s just a splat of randomness, you’re staring at variables that don’t jive—they’re like strangers at a party.

Scoop up the insights, hunt for outliers, or let your eyes trace a trend line through the dot-scape. It’s all about piecing together the narrative behind the numbers.

Types Of Scatter Charts

Chart created with wpDataTables

The multitude of scatter charts come decked out with their tools and tales.

First up, the Basic Scatter Chart, the classic workhorse—two variables, a bunch of points, pure simplicity.

Then, there’s the Bubble Chart—it’s the basic one’s quirky cousin. It slaps on a third dimension: bubble size. Now you’re juggling three variables.

Feeling futuristic? The 3D Scatter Plot rockets you into another realm, plotting three numeric variables in space, not just on a flat canvas.

Can’t forget the Time Series Scatter Chart either. This one makes time a player, usually along the x-axis, letting history join the party.

For those who fancy precision, the Error Bars Scatter Plot tosses in vertical or horizontal error bars, adding a layer of uncertainty analysis to the mix.

And, for the matchmakers of the data world, the Scatter Plot Matrix—a grid of scatter plots comparing multiple variables, back-to-back, all at once. Each combo gets its moment to shine.

How To Make A Scatter Chart In WordPress

Creating a scatter chart in WordPress using the wpDataTables plugin involves a series of steps within the plugin’s Chart Creation Wizard:

  1. Open Chart Creation Wizard:
    • Navigate to your WordPress admin panel, go to wpDataTables -> Create a Chart.
    • Assign a name to your chart for easy identification later and select one of the available render engines (Google Charts, Highcharts, Chart.js, or ApexCharts).
  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 chart. This involves selecting the columns (and possibly rows) that contain the data points you wish to plot on your scatter chart.
  4. Formatting and Preview:
    • At this stage, you can customize the appearance and settings of your chart. While the specific options for scatter charts might vary by render engine, you generally have the ability to adjust aspects like chart and axis titles, data point colors, and sizes.
    • 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 scatter chart.
    • Use this shortcode to insert the scatter chart into your WordPress posts or pages.

Remember, the wpDataTables plugin is designed to simplify the process of creating and managing tables and charts within WordPress, offering a user-friendly interface for a variety of chart types, including scatter charts.

How To Make A Scatter Chart In Excel

To create a scatter chart in Excel, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare Your Data:
    • Start with a worksheet that contains your data arranged in columns. For a scatter chart, you typically need two columns of data: one for the x-values and one for the y-values.
  2. Select Your Data:
    • Click and drag to select the data you want to include in your scatter chart.
  3. Insert Scatter Chart:
    • Go to the Insert tab on the ribbon.
    • Click on Insert Scatter (X, Y) or Bubble Chart.
    • Choose Scatter.
  4. Customize Your Chart:
    • Click the chart area to display the Design and Format tabs.
    • Use the Design tab to change the chart style or switch chart type.
    • Add chart elements like axis titles or data labels by clicking Add Chart Element on the Design tab.
    • Customize the chart title by clicking on it and typing your desired text.
  5. Adjust Axis Titles:
    • On the Design tab, click Add Chart Element > Axis Titles.
    • Select Primary Horizontal for the x-axis title and Primary Vertical for the y-axis title.
    • Click each title to type the text you want.
  6. Format the Chart:
    • Click the plot area or any specific element you wish to customize.
    • Use the Format tab to apply different styles, effects, or to adjust the size and shape of chart elements.
  7. Apply Theme Colors (Optional):
    • If you want to change the theme colors, go to the Page Layout tab, click Themes, and select the theme you want to use.

How To Make A Scatter Chart In Google Sheets

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

  1. Select Your Data:
    • Highlight the range of data you want to include in your scatter chart. This typically involves selecting two columns of data that you want to compare.
  2. Insert the Chart:
    • Go to the Insert tab in the menu.
    • Choose Chart from the options.
  3. Choose Scatter Chart:
    • Once the Chart Editor sidebar appears, navigate to the Chart Type dropdown menu.
    • Select Scatter Chart from the list of available chart types. You may also check the Aggregate box if you want to aggregate the data points.
  4. Customize Your Scatter Chart:
    • To further customize your scatter chart, click on the Edit Chart option in the chart’s menu.
    • In the Customize tab of the Chart Editor sidebar, you can adjust various settings:
      • Series or Data Series: Here, you can add error bars, data labels, and a trendline.
      • Horizontal and Vertical Axis: Customize the axis titles, label font size, format, and text color.
      • Gridlines: Adjust the appearance of gridlines for both the vertical and horizontal axes.
  5. Customize Chart and Axis Titles:
    • In the Customize tab, go to Chart & Axis Titles. Here, you can rename the chart title and change its format.
    • You can also customize the titles for the horizontal and vertical axes by following the same steps.

FAQ About Scatter Charts

How Do You Read a Scatter Plot?

Got a scatter plot in front of you? Start with the axes—each represents a variable. The spread of dots across the grid paints the correlation picture. A rising swarm of dots? Positive correlation. A falling one? That’s negative. A random splatter means no correlation—just chaos.

When Should You Use a Scatter Chart?

Turn to scatter charts when you’re itching to analyze relationships between numerical variables. Got sales figures and ad spend data? Plot them. If variables dance together in sync, that’s a partnership worth looking into. Scatter charts shine a spotlight on such intriguing connections.

What’s the Difference Between a Scatter Chart and a Line Graph?

Imagine a scatter chart as a cocktail party—guests mingling in groups, forming patterns. A line graph is more like conga line—points holding hands, threading a dance across the chart. Scatter plots highlight relationships, line graphs tell the story of a variable over time.

Can Scatter Charts Show Multiple Variables?

You bet! Enter the3D scatter plot or its cousin, the bubble chart, where bubbles dance across the chart with their size adding another layer of data. More variables? More insights. But beware the potential mess; you’ll need a clear design and an audience comfortable with complexity.

What Does a Scatter Chart Tell You About Data?

Scatter charts are chatterboxes about relationships in your data. They whisper secrets about how closely things are connected and shout when something’s out of the ordinary. Essentially, they’re your data’s biography, revealing the life and times of your variables’ relationship.

How Does a Trend Line Fit Into a Scatter Chart?

A trend line is like a trusted guide through the wilderness of data points. It takes an average hike through the up and downs, offering the bigger picture. Trend lines are the distilled essence—the takeaway of what the data is muttering about.

Can Scatter Charts Predict Outcomes?

While they’re not fortune tellers, scatter charts can play the predicting game. If the trend line is a faithful summary of your data’s past story, you can extend that line to forecast future episodes. It’s part art, part science, and all about spotting patterns that hint at what might be.

What Tools Do You Need to Create Scatter Charts?

Buckle up, we’re diving into a treasure trove—Excel, Google Sheets for the spreadsheet savvy, or Tableau for those who breathe data. For the coders, there’s Python or R with libraries like Matplotlib and ggplot. The toolbox is as broad as it is deep.

How Do Scatter Charts Work With Big Data?

Scatter charts and big data? It can get complex, but don’t fret. Advanced tools handle the heavy lifting—processing vast data oceans into decipherable plots. Remember, clarity is king. With big data, it’s all about distilling the wisdom from the numbers and making it comprehensible.


And there we have it—the journey through the cosmos of scatter charts draws to a close. We’ve voyaged past the basics, navigated through the maze of data points, and even touched the stars with trend analysis.

It’s key to remember, these charts are more than just scattered dots on a 2D graph. They’re the heartbeat of data storytelling, a method that turns numbers into narratives, and allows for spirited data visualization that informs and enlightens.

To wrap it up, whether you’re whipping up a chart in Excel, scripting magic with Python, or letting Tableau lead the dance of digits, remember: it’s all about unearthing the hidden tales that lie within your data. Use these charts wisely and watch as the once veiled patterns become the treasured insights that could pivot strategies or spark innovation.

As the final dot is plotted, the story doesn’t end; it’s just the beginning of your next discovery.

Milan Jovanovic
Milan Jovanovic

Product Lead

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