Both the Bar and the Column charts display data using rectangular bars where the length of the bar is proportional to the data value. Both are used to compare two or more values. However, their difference lies in their orientation. A Bar chart is oriented horizontally whereas the Column chart is oriented vertically.
Figure : Bar chart
Figure: Column chart
Due to their different orientations, they cannot be always used interchangeably.
Bar charts are good for displaying long data labels:
Column charts have limited space in the category axis. So, when your data labels are long, the category axis may look cluttered.
You can reduce clutter by either slanting or rotating the labels.
However, if you use the Bar chart, it will improve the readability of your chart manifold.
Bar charts are good for displaying large number of data sets on the category axis:
The Column chart is a good fit for a maximum of 10-12 data sets. However, when the number of data sets is larger than that, using a Column chart is not the best way forward.
A Bar chart with the data sets placed one below the other would be a better choice in this case as it makes optimum use of space.
Column charts are good for displaying data sets with negative values:
In a Bar chart negative values are displayed as bars on the left.
Therefore, use the Column chart when you have negative values in your data set.
To sum up, while the Column chart can be used to facilitate all comparison-based analysis, it is better to use the Bar chart when your data labels are long or you have too many data sets to display.
Keep watching this space for more insights on charting best practices.
Happy Charting till next time 🙂