Saturday, November 11, 2017

Make your PowerPoint charts effective rather than pretty

On October 29 at the Ellen Finkelstein PowerPoint Blog there was a guest post by Yousef Abu Ghaidah titled A simple 4-step guide to beautifully visualize data in your presentations.

His four steps are:

1]  Tell the right story

2]  Add less, not more

3]  Add flair that is relevant

4]  Add creative details

His example began with a table listing the fifty most followed users on Twitter in 2017. Then he showed 28 of them in an abominable pie chart.

For the first step he showed a column chart with all fifty captioned HOW POPULAR IS KATY PERRY ON TWITTER?

For the second step he limited the chart to the top seven. Inside each column he listed the number of followers via a silly vertical label (e.g. 106 M FOLLOWERS for Katy Perry). At the bottom of each column he put a two-line label with the name and hashtag, like Katy Perry, @katyperry.

For the third step he changed the background color, moved the title to the left of the column chart, and spread it over four lines.

Finally, for the fourth step he sensibly switched the layout to a horizontal bar chart, added a small circular image for each person, and put a ladder between Justin Bieber (103 M) and Katy Perry (106M) and a caption to the right noting ONLY 3M FOLLOWERS BEHIND. Here’s his ‘finished’ chart:

It’s pretty, but it’s still not very effective. What needs fixing? The name labels identifying those top seven users are too small to read, and we don’t need to see their hashtags too. Make them bigger, and we won’t need to identify them by their pictures. Make the data number labels bigger too. Also, we don’t need to see the word FOLLOWERS repeated inside all seven columns. A single axis label would work better. Finally, taking up a third of the image width with a four-line title to the left of the chart is pretty silly. Why not make it one line at the top? Here’s my simpler version:

What do you think? And if I was picking what to include, I’d probably have shown the top five users rather than seven.

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