Understanding Column Charts

We have used column charts as example in all of the previous tutorials (to cover basics of charting),

Still for sake of completeness, let’s recap the steps required to insert a column chart.

As an example, let’s say we have the following average occupancy data for a hotel chain, and we want to represent this in a chart:

Column Chart data

Select the whole data & the headers (A2:F3) -> Go to Insert-> Column->Click on Clustered Column

Making & Inserting a column chart

Essentially, we are selecting a series(of numbers) and inserting a chart.In this example, we selected the hearders in the first step, so that excel can automatically put the category labels for us(Saturday, Sunday etc). If we don't do that, we can always do so(or change the defaults that excel is suggesting) by going to Select Data wizard.(Right Click on chart & click on 'Select Data').

Tip: Excel is intelligent enough to put numeric values(row/column) as data series and text(non numeric) rows/columns as  category labels(detecting them as column/row headers). Again, if there is any gap, we need to visit the Select Data wizard to arrange the data as per our wish.

We cover the Select Data wizard for entering another series below. We recommend that you work on the exercise file for this tutorial on column charts to enhance your grasp on the subject.

Uses & Examples of Column Chart: Column Chart is appropriate in the following scenarios:

Examples and uses of column charts

Comparison of something (metric) in different time-zones or conditions: We have already covered an example above, this works well when there are limited data points.

Depicting outliers: When we want to show how extraordinary (high or low) certain values are, column charts can be useful.

Comparison of two or more things across certain categories: It is also possible to compare two or more things through a column chart. This will require adding more than 1 data series to the chart (explained below).

Adding another data series to a column chart: We already know how to convert a set of numbers into a column chart. So, if we have a table of country-wise production of Wheat, we can easily convert this into a column chart as shown below:

Single data series chart

This is an example of single data series column chart. What if we also have the data for Rice production across these 3 countries? How do we plot that in this chart to draw meaningful inferences?

Essentially we have to add a data series for Rice. Steps for doing the same are shown below:

Adding another data series to a chart

If you want a detailed description & knowledge about series & category data selection in excel, please see our previous tutorial.