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Good ol' excel is the ultimate data visualization tool (in most cases)

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  • 1. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 1 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases Go to qunb.com Tell stories with your data. Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Posted by Cyrille Vincey Find me on: Since our post about Infographics, a *lot* of people, stunned by Tufte's "less is more" gif, have been asking us lately what's our recommendation for a data visualization package. Considering the size of their datasets, and the kind of story they wanna tell, our answer has been invariably the same: "Well, use your dusty ol' Excel". Surprising isn't it? Data Visualization, you said? I already wrote earlier that we want to stay away from this mainstream worship of the Infographics golden Subscribe to Email Updates Email * Keep me postedKeep me posted Read our finest words Why We Hate Infographics (And Why You Should) Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Data Visualization 101 Home
  • 2. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 2 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases calf. Instead, we want to stick with the Data Visualization Tables of the Law, given by God to Edward Tufte: 1. Talk to my eye, not to my brain: rely on proven types of visualization to make sure you 2. Less is more: suppress everything that's not absolutely usefull for the understanding of a chart 3. One chart = one takeaway: when looking at your chart, I should be able to infer your message in a snap 4. Tell a story: build a directed sequence of messages "Take this, Edward Tufte, and tell your disciples at qunb this is the worst introduction ever in the History of Blogging" Is there a Raise and Fall of Excel as a Data Visualization tool? I've been a consultant for, well, too long. Excel was my bitch. Unfortunately, I have to concede that Microsoft missed the boat of modern Data Visualizations. Posts by Topic Tutorials (11) Data Storytelling (9) Life (7) Fun (4) Updates (2)
  • 3. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 3 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases People are now expecting well designed, webby, and interactive data visualizations. Hence data nerds have turned to advanced data analysis tools like Tableau. If you're a quant, and if you can afford the time and the money, that's an awesome tool. But if you aren't, you're stuck with Excel, and its shitty charts. This is why qunb was created: to help anyone to seamlessly create and tell visual stories. Today with your Google Analytics data (check it out), tomorrow with SalesForce, and in 2014 with any excel data. The wait is killing you? Well, meanwhile, is Excel that bad? Yes, default charts in Excel look like they were done by your father in 1993 Let's take as a simple dataset of the latest funding deals, based on Form D information. By default, here's how a chart on that dataset would look like: Ugly, pointless... But don't cry! Excel is (still) the
  • 4. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 4 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases Ultimate Data Visualization tool in most cases Yes, my friends, no need to waste time nor money to start mastering a complex data visualization package. We can do a pretty good job at publishing good looking charts, with regard to the current design best practices, only by using the standard version of Excel. Provided that you don't need interactive charts (charts enabling data discovery for the reader), nor maps, nor fancy visualization types that your reader will probably struggle to read anyway. If you just need good looking modern - yet static - charts, like donuts, 2D charts, Excel is still the best option. Doubtful? Well, go through the data story below, 100% made with Excel. Then we'll see the tips & tricks to issue those kind of charts. Here's a 100%-Excel visual story of startup funding First let's focus on the proportion of tech deals vs deals in other industries:
  • 5. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 5 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases Then let's show how this proportion evolves over time: Now we're intrigued. Is this trend compensated by the size of funding deals? Let's see: So, what does the global amount raised look like?
  • 6. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 6 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases That's it for today. I know, it's frustrating. Be patient, we're baking a complete and compelling data story with this dataset of funding deals data. Crispy, unexpected things lying in this data. So if you need to leave us now... Subscribe to email updates to getSubscribe to email updates to get the complete startup funding datathe complete startup funding data storystory Ok, you're still here? Let's look together how to make your excel charts look like this. Our 8-step recipe to "tufterize" your excel charts I wont cover in this section the tips and tricks for data discovery and data analysis with Excel, I'll keep that
  • 7. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 7 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases for a later post. Soon, I promise. We'll talk about aggregation, clustering, segmentation, made easy with excel. Can't wait. For now, Let's only talk here about visual improvements to turn the default excel chart into one of those charts. Build your pivot table, then build your default chart (here a stacked column: Chart > Column > Stacked Column): Then move the chart to a new page (right click > Move charts > New sheet). #1. Start with deleting all the visual pollution Delete the legend, the horizontal gridlines, and the Y axis.
  • 8. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 8 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases #2. Color set : one vivid color, and grays. No more. Double-click on each category (blue, red, green, ...), then go: in the "Fill" menu: change to color in the "Line" menu: apply the same color in the "Shadow" menu: disable the "shadow" option #3. Optimize the x axis Double-click on the x axis, then go: in the "Ticks" menu: select "Major Tick Mark
  • 9. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 9 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases in the "Ticks" menu: select "Major Tick Mark Type" [none] In the "Fill" menu: change Color from [Automatic] to [No Fill] in the "Line" menu : change Color from [Automatic] to [no Line] Then tweak the x axis labels: Change the font (Calibri smells MS Office like hell). I personally like "Century Gothic". Enlarge the font Chage the Font Color (black => gray) #4. Add Data Labels Legends should be banned from Excel. You should make sure you use direct labelling only, not only for values, but also for your categories. Here is a little trick. First add data labels on every category (right click > "Add Data Labels"). Change the font, the font size, and the font color.
  • 10. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 10 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases #5. Delete useless labels You should keep only the values you want your reader to pay attention to. Usually, only extreme values are really helpful to support your message. Select useless labels one by one and delete them. Just keep one useless label by category (you'll use it as a legend in the next step). #6. Add direct labelling to your chart For each "useless" data label you kept in the previous step, double-click on it, then in the dialog box
  • 11. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 11 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases in the "Labels“ menu: uncheck "Value", and check "Series name" In the "Font" menu: change the "Font Color" to the color of your category (here, red or gray) Then select the Plot area (click somewhere in an empty place in the chart zone) and select the right handle to reduce the chart width a bit and let some room for the category names. At last, move the category names you just created on the right to place them as category legends. #7. Add an explicit takeaway to your chart Even if you think your chart is self-explanatory, you should add a title to comment your chart. You should also make sure that this comment explains what the chart is talking about. Global amounts raised? Turnover? ... If your comment does not explicitely tell the reader what the chart is actually about, make sure you add a technical description of your chart somewhere (ex: "Cumulated turnover of...").
  • 12. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 12 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases #8. Remove frames and borders If you copy your chart like this, you'll see an ugly border. Go in the "Chart Format" dialog box (right click outside the plotting area > "Format Chart Area"). Then In the "Fill" menu: change Color from [Automatic] to [No Fill] In the "Line" menu: change Color from [Automatic] to [No Line] Your chart is ready to get copied and paste wherever you want. Congrats, your data looks better naked, just with excel To conclude, here's a Darkhorse Analytics's awesome gif summarizing this loooooong post.
  • 13. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 13 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases Now, if you prefer to see the future in action... Shut up and let me test qunb with my Google Analytics Topics: Data Storytelling Published on Oct 16, 2013 2:07:00 PM 173 6593 ShareShare
  • 14. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 14 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases Comments Community Login Sort by Best Share Join the discussion… • Reply • CO • 7 months ago Most of your changes are decent, but removing lines and axes and using "direct labeling" is an amateur hour mistake often mocked in intro stats or data visualization courses. Everything else up to that is fine, but once you start messing with the natural guidelines the brain uses to line things up, you're asking for trouble. 2 • Reply • irinai • 6 months agoCO Don't intro stats use terrible-looking charts? • Reply • CO • 6 months agoirinai What kind of intro stats did you take? 1 • Reply • josep2 • 7 months ago I agree with a lot of what it written here. I will say excel is very limited with certain kinds of plots. Anything outside of what you demonstrated here, it falls apart. 3 Cyrille Vincey • 7 months agojosep2 Thanks for your comment. You are right, but the kind of visualizations I've used in this post represent 100% of the kind of charts I've used in my whole consulting lifetime. (oh, I forgot maps) What I mean here is that more complex representations (say bubble charts, plots, ...) are good as WIP for analysts exploring data, Favorite Share › Share › Share › Share ›
  • 15. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 15 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases • Reply • are good as WIP for analysts exploring data, but not good for the final restitution of a story based on data. 1 • Reply • Hubi • 7 months ago Cyrille Vincey Excel 2003 maybe but if you guys haven't seen what's happening with Excel since the free PowerPivot add- in was released then you need to get with the program. http://www.powerpivotpro.com/ • Reply • Privat Privat • 2 months ago Hubi *Excel 2003 = Good times Excel in the webbrowser = Horrible experience waynergf • 7 months ago Argh! Amazing - a blog posting that purports to illustrate good visualization practices litters one of the worst practices throughout: stacked bar charts...and of data that occur over time yet! As Tufte has pointed out, the purpose of graphs is to allow meaningful comparisons that provoke questions and thus begin the processes of discovery and learning - ultimately leading to good decisions. Stacked bar charts obscure comparisons because the reference point / line / plane for each of the stacked portions changes with each bar - bad practice. Data over time should be plotted over time - using the appropriate Statistical Process Control (SPC) chart so that random variation ("Common Causes") may be distinguished from real effects ("Special Causes"). This is critical because the two types of variation require different actions; when the two are confused the decisions Share › Share › Share ›
  • 16. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 16 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases • Reply • actions; when the two are confused the decisions made and the actions taken make matters (the process' performance) worse. ["In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."] 1 • Reply • Jordan Goldmeier • 7 months ago waynergf I was thinking the same thing - perhaps not has harshly - but it's fair to say Tufte would not approve of the solution attributed to him here. • Reply • The Daily Graph • 7 months ago Couldn't have said it better. There is a blog at http://www.apptrac.net/en/blog... about using Excel to re-create charts that have appeared on the website of The Economist. It's all plain-vanilla Excel, no macros or VBA, and you can download workbooks with the charts for free. 1 • Reply • Cyrille Vincey • 7 months ago The Daily Graph Awesome site, we've just spent 1h on apptrac. Thanks for the link! • Reply • Chris • 7 months ago Might want to fix the typo unless this was done on purpose. Also, great post. Never thought about simplifying the charts to make them look more elegant. "To conclude, here's a Darkhorse Analytics's awesome gif summarizing this loooooonb post." • Reply • Cyrille Vincey • 7 months agoChris Oops. Done. Thanks Chris. Share › Share › Share › Share › Share › Share ›
  • 17. 20/05/14 17:44Good Ol' Excel Is The Ultimate Data Visualization Tool (In Most Cases) Página 17 de 17http://insights.qunb.com/good-ol-excel-is-the-ultimate-data-visualization-tool-in-most-cases • Reply • • Reply • Guest • a month ago No Python3 support is a deal-breaker - you're saying we should be happy to wait for years for this package to mature only to be writing with a 10+ year old featureset? No thanks. I wish this project all the best but I can't support it in good conscience, for the Python community as a whole. Rui Quintino • 3 months ago Hi there, Hot thread :) thought in adding our small app for instant Excel data visualization, called smartcharts http://rquintino.wordpress.com... Feedback from the experts would be great! :) Regards, Rui Quintino http://rquintino.wordpress.com... Share › Share › comments powered by Disqus © 2014 Qunb careers terms & privacy contact