When to Use Bubble Charts to Display Your Data

Tips & Tricks
Jul 29, 2015
5 Min Read
Bubble Chart vs Pie Chart

Welcome to the first in a five part series on some recently released new Quick Base chart types. Today we are featuring the Bubble Chart, giving you the ability to visualize up to 4-dimensions of data!

Without a doubt the bubble chart is a fan favorite, combining the visuals of an afternoon cartoon with a whole trainload of data. This can lead to the bubble being used to report on all sorts of data sets, even when it might not be the best way to convey the message, or the analysis, your team really needs. For determining when (and more importantly WHY) to utilize the new bubble chart in Quick Base, there are a few handy steps to take into account.

Don’t force the bubble on your data

The bubble chart is designed to visually convey three or four dimensions of data, which is more than just marketing buzz. This means your data needs to have at least three fields on your record that you’ll want to convey graphically all at once. This could be a date field (x-axis), a cost figure (y-axis), and the ROI of the project (bubble size). Trying to stuff data that really belongs in a pie chart (for example) into a bubble chart…can lead to disaster, confusion, and incorrect analysis.

Explain the chart to those who need it

The bubble chart can be tricky to look at and immediately consume the answer on first pass. Unlike simple line charts, that might convey a running total of your sales data, the bubble chart hits the user with a lot of data all at once. The most successful bubble charts are ones that are explained ahead of time, allowing the consumer of the report to visually answer the question without even thinking about the graph itself. Let’s look at the example below. At first use, a consumer of this bubble chart needs to understand what each axis and bubble size is referring to, while also trying to make sense of what question this report is showing. If instead, it was explained to end-users ahead of time that the size of the bubble indicates risk of a project finishing on time, the Y-axis shows the projects value, and the X-axis indicates expected close date, they can immediately let their eyes go to the highest, largest bubble to find the projects most at risk with the highest value.

Monitor usage, make changes when necessary

When using the bubble chart it is important to make sure that it is being correctly interpreted right from the get go. Ensure that your team is understanding what is being presented to them and that the information is relevant without being overkill. In some instances, the bubble might not be the right chart to use, even if your data set supports it.  In the end, it is up to your team and the consumers of the report to determine the best way to convey the answers they need!

Armed with these handy tips, feel confident beginning the journey of bubble charts in Quick Base. Make sure to check the Charts are Fun app in Quick Base Exchange to learn more.

Remember, with great bubbles…comes great responsibility!

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