Do you have large data sets and want to pull valuable insights from them? Do you want to identify trends and patterns in your data sets? If you answered yes to these questions, you need to visualize your data using charts and graphs. When it comes to visualizing non-time-series data, the two most common data visualizations are bar graphs and pie charts. While both chart types have some common use cases, they differ from each other in many ways. However, many people are unsure about the difference between bar graph vs pie chart and when to use them.
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What Are Bar Graphs?
A bar graph or chart refers to a chart that plots data, quantities, or numeric values using bars. These graphs usually represent categorical data and consist of two axes. One axis consists of bars representing different categories, while the other axis represents discrete values. The number of bars on a bar graph depends on the number of data categories. For example, if there are seven categories, the bar graph will have seven bars. The length of the bars demonstrates the numeric values of the category. Bar graphs are usually used to compare different variables or show changes in data over time.
If you’re looking for a tool to create bar graphs for your web apps, FusionCharts is the best choice. FusionCharts is a leading JavaScript charting library that allows you to create more than 100 different types of charts and graphs. It also comes with more than 2,000 choropleth maps (covering countries and cities).
Below is a bar chart created using FusionCharts. The graph depicts different countries with the most oil reserves. The bars on the horizontal axis represent different countries, and their lengths correspond to the amount of oil reserves.
What Are Different Types of Bar Graphs?
The two most common types of bar graphs are vertical bar graphs and horizontal bar graphs. A vertical bar graph consists of bars along the x-axis, whereas in a horizontal bar graph, the y-axis consists of horizontal bars.
Two other types of bar charts are grouped bar charts and stacked bar charts. Grouped bar graphs consist of different sets of data categories, where each category has multiple items. In stacked bar graphs, each bar is divided into different parts to compare parts of a whole.
What Are Pie Charts?
A pie chart consists of a circular graph divided into different pieces/slices, where each slice represents a category. The size of each slice demonstrates the proportion of the whole each category signifies. These charts essentially depict how a total amount is divided between different variables or categories. Pie charts are a great choice when you want to plot data to show the percentages of a whole.
When creating a pie chart, it’s essential to consider the order of the slices to ensure viewers can understand it quickly. It’s best to arrange slices from largest to smallest. However, if the variables have a specific ordering, you should follow that.
FusionCharts allows you to create interactive pie charts with captions, sub captions, data labels, legends, and more. It also lets you create pie charts using data contained in a database, such as MySQL.
Below is a simple 2D pie chart created using FusionCharts. The chart shows how much market share different web servers have. We can easily interpret that Apache holds a little less than half of the web servers’ market share.
What Are Different Types of Pie Charts?
Pie charts are divided into two types based on the chart’s dimension. These two types are 2D pie charts and 3D pie charts. There are also nested pie charts that consist of multiple levels of the given data. FusionCharts lets you create all types of pie charts – be it 2D, 3D, or nested charts.
Pros and Cons – Bar Graphs Vs Pie Charts
Bar Graphs
Pros
- Simple and easy to understand
- Help understand trends and patterns in a data set
- Make it easy to summarize large data sets in visual form
Cons
- Usually require additional details and explanations
- People can misunderstand or misinterpret bar graphs
- Don’t reveal key causes and effects
Pie Charts
Pros
- Simple and easy way of understanding how a total amount is divided between categories
- Display data to show percentages of a whole
- Give a clear idea of the relative proportion for each variable
Cons
- You cannot use a single pie chart for comparing multiple sets
- Pie charts become crowded when there are more than six categories
- Aren’t useful for representing time series data
Difference Between Pie Chart Vs Bar Graph-Comparison Table
The comparison table below shows bar graph vs pie chart differences
Bar Graph |
Pie Chart |
Consists of rectangular bars representing different categories of a data set | Circular – Consists of slices representing different categories of a data set |
Plots Absolute values | Plots relative values/frequencies of the measurements |
Great for representing a data set with several categories | Becomes messy when there are more than six categories |
Used for comparing categories to each other | Used for comparing the contribution of each category to the whole |
Can represent multiple data sets | A single pie chart can only represent a single data set |
Can be used to plot time series data |
Aren’t effective in representing time series data |
When to Use a Bar Graph vs Pie Chart?
The sections below will help you understand when to use a bar graph and pie chart.
When to Choose a Bar Graph?
A bar graph is great for representing the distribution of data points and comparing different variables/categories of your data. For example, you can use a bar graph to see which items in your data have the highest frequency or how a category compares against the others. A bar graph is also a good choice when you want to see changes in data over time.
When to Use a Pie Chart?
You should use a pie chart when you have a data set that consists of different distinct parts or categories that add up to a meaningful whole. In other words, it’s best to use a pie chart when you want to compare the contribution of each category to the whole.
How Do You Determine Which Is Better? Bar Graph Vs Pie Chart
Both bar graph and pie chart have their own use cases. Determining which type of chart is best depends on the data type and the purpose of visualizing the data. When you want to compare different categories of data or track changes over time, bar graphs are the best choice. However, when you want to show the percentages of a whole, a pie chart is the right option.
FAQs – Bar Graph Vs Pie Chart
Why is a pie chart preferred to a bar graph?
A pie chart is preferred when you have a small data set (less than six categories), and you want to show the percentages of a whole. However, when you want to compare categories of large data sets, bar charts are the right choice.
Why are bar graphs the best?
Bar graphs are simple and easy to interpret and help understand patterns in a data set. They also make it easy to compare large data sets.
Why is the pie chart the best?
A pie chart makes it easy to analyze how a total amount is divided between different categories. Pie charts give a clear idea of the relative proportion for each variable.
When should you not use a pie chart?
When you have large data sets with several categories, you shouldn’t use a pie chart, as it looks crowded.