As part of our continuing series to critique a selection of graphs and charts, we have selected this wonderful pyramid column chart, based on an actual graph we saw in a real report prepared by another firm we are too polite to name.  The Bunker takes a lot of pride in reporting and data visualization, and every now and again we’ll come across an item that makes us cringe.  On that note…

There are a couple different things that immediately popped to mind when taking a look at this graph:

  • The numbers don’t add up – There are only two numbers displayed and they don’t add to 100%.  It’s likely that there were ‘no replies’ in the question and they weren’t removed from the ‘total responses.’  If for some reason you really don’t want to calculate your percentages that way and your graph doesn’t add to 100% as a result – you should at least footnote the reason why.
  • Two extra columns – There are two unexplained blanks columns in this graph (on the right side).  This is probably a copy and paste job from a question that originally had four columns.  When someone spots something as simple as a formatting error, they might question what else is wrong in the report.  Always double-check your graph formatting.
  • The 3D Graph – This is more of a personal opinion, but many analysts feel that the 3D graphs take away from the data presentation.  While they might look cool, they can sometimes be misleading or hard to read (especially depending on how much the perspective/angle is changed to make the graph appear to be 3D). Ultimately, these 3D graphs are a bit more difficult to read/comprehend than a simple 2D graph.   While this one isn’t particularly bad as some others we’ve seen (at least we can see the data), we feel this simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question might be better displayed with a 2D Pie Chart, and you won’t have to pay extra for 3D goggles.  Pie charts are usually great for displaying a few categories that add to 100%.

Here in the Bunker, we’ll always stress the importance of data visualization and continuously work to improve the way we present our data to clients.  The whole reason we use graphs instead of plain numerical data in the first place is so that the data can be understood easily and put into perspective by the reader.  Developing a report is arguably the most important part of the research process, especially from a client perspective.   It is the final deliverable they are expecting from your market research firm and it’s the keynote product of a service-based business.

Do you have some graph fail suggestions for the RMS Research Bunker to feature?  Leave them in our comment section below.