3 Times You Should Use a Column Chart

Understanding how to best make data work for you is an incredibly important part of the process. There are quite a few types of charts, and they each offer something unique. A column chart is one such example. This is not your average bar chart, although it might look a lot like a bar chart to some.

Understanding when to use a column chart is essential to getting results and understanding what they mean. Take a look at this simple guide that provides you with three times that you might want to use a column chart for your data needs.

Column Chart Overview

A column chart does use bars, or columns, to represent the data entered. However, that is where the similarity to a bar chart ends. On a column chart, the data is input in the opposite manner. The fixed data of the chart will be displayed horizontally, and the variable data will be displayed vertically.

The best use for a column chart is when you need to compare categorical data to each other. The design helps to simplify the data in a way that can be visually understood. If you really want an awesome visual, you will likely be able to display that here. Now, take a look at these examples and ideas for use.

Comparing Related Categories

If you have categories that relate to each other but have different data to compare, a column chart might be helpful. This is simple for categorical comparison. The category really doesn’t matter, as long as you can relate the numbers and enter data into a valid field.

When you use a column chart for this purpose, each category has a specific value to enter. You can enter the data of each category and then view it together to see how they compare to each other. This gives you the ability to see how one category is performing and see which categories are performing the best overall.

Reviewing Change

The next opportunity for a column chart is when you need to see the flow of change. You can review a specific timeframe to see how the data has changed throughout that period. This can help a company decide whether something is performing as they want it to or being used in a positive way in the company.

In this type of setup, you are most likely looking at variables of some sort. Maybe you’re looking at sources and how they performed. The design allows you to see changes and review those and then potentially take action from there.

Contribution Comparison



Finally, the third way to use a column chart is to look at how different particulars are contributing. Maybe you have a huge project and you want to see which department has contributed the most to the project. You can review something like how many hours each department has put into the project and compare. Another contribution comparison might be for a store with several locations. What are the profits of each location? You can plug in those numbers and compare them across the board to see how they contribute to the company as a whole.


A column chart can be helpful for providing an optimal visual. When you’re not quite sure how to share some numbers and details to attract the audience, it could work for you. Just remember that a column chart is not a bar chart. They have distinct differences and should be used properly so that the end results and interpretations are also accurate.

In addition to the traditional column chart, you could also consider clustered columns or stacked columns in some cases.

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