Choosing the right visualization for your data
One of the questions we most often get asked is: "What’s the right visualization to use with my data?" The choice can feel overwhelming, but narrowing it down is straightforward once you know how.
The one question that will help you choose the right visualization
Ask yourself: What is my data trying to communicate?
Do you want to show change over time? A list of rankings? Correlation between two variables? Once you know that, the options are clearer.
The Financial Times’s data visualization team has made a great visual vocabulary for this. We’ve used their categories to help you pick the right Flourish visualization.
1. Change over time
If you mainly want to communicate change over time, we recommend these. Click on them to make one now!
The standard way to show changing time series
Great at showing total change, though individual series are less clear
Another way to show change over time, especially for a single series
Good for clearly conveying ‘before and after’ data
Use these when you mainly want to communicate size comparisons, relative or absolute.
The standard way to compare the size of things; y-axis should always start at 0
Like columns, especially when the data are not time series, or axis labels are long
3. Parts of a whole
Use these to show how an entity breaks down into its components. If you’re mainly interested in the absolute size of the components, consider one of the size charts above instead.
Common, though hard to accurately compare the segments
Similar to a pie, though the center can be used to convey additional information
Use correlation visualizations when you want to show the relationship between two or more variables.
The standard way to show the relationship between two continuous variables
Like a scatterplot, but sizes the circles by a third variable
Use where an item’s position in an ordered list is the most important thing you want to show.
A simple bar chart. Just order your data as you want it to display
Line chart race:
Also known as a horserace chart, or a bumps chart. Show more detailed comparison over time
Show values in a dataset and how often they occur. The shape of a distribution is often useful to see.
A simple way to show raw values in the data, across categories
Summarize multiple distributions by showing the median & range of the data
7. Flows and relationships
Use these to show volume, movement or connections between two or more states.
Show changes in volume between different conditions
Use when geospatial patterns in your data are more important than anything else.
9. Election visualizations
This category is specifically for people wanting to visualize the outcome of elections.
Searchable bar chart ideal for election results, includes a coalition builder feature
10. Flourish special: Individual users’ responses
Another Flourish special! If you have data about individual events or entities, use the Flourish survey visualization to let your users query your data however they wish.
Before picking any chart, it’s really worth studying the FT’s visual vocabulary - they even have a handy PDF you can print out and put on the wall!
You can choose from all these visualizations, and lots more, at the Flourish templates page.