Bottom Line: Explore 10 different advanced Excel charts, including what type of data to use them with, when to use them, and the advantages they provide over traditional charts.
Skill Level: Advanced
Watch the Tutorial
Download the Excel File
Here's the workbook I use containing all of the chart types. Feel free to download it and play with the charts on your own.
10 Advanced Excel Charts.xlsx (554.2 KB)
Improve Your Charting Skills
In this post I share a compilation of charts that I've created over the years. The goal of any chart is to tell a story about the data. We want to make it easy for the reader to quickly understand the chart. We might also want to make the chart interactive so that they can explore the data and find additional insights.
The charts in this post are definitely more advanced creations where I've added functionality to the existing chart types in Excel. The goal is to make them: easier to read, interactive, and/or more dynamic.
The possibilities with charts in Excel is endless, and I hope this post inspires you to create charts that tell the story of your data in new ways.
Here is a list of the ten charts mentioned in the video. Each section includes a brief description of the chart and what type of data to use it with. There is also a link to the tutorials where you can learn how to create and implement the charts in your own projects.
1. Column Chart with Percentage Change
Data: Time Series
Use: Display % change between time periods or events.
Description: Between each of the bars on the chart you'll see an arrow and and the variance (or percentage change) from one time period to the next. The arrows and text are conditionally formatted to change colors for positive or negative variances.
This dynamic chart changes when you slice (filter) the data using a slicer. The title also changes according to the region selected in the slicer.
2. Conditional Doughnut Progress Chart
Data: Progress to Goal
Use: Display % completion with conditional colors for levels or milestones.
Description: A cool feature about this doughnut chart (circle chart) is that the color changes as the percentage increases so that you can better visualize the passing of milestones toward your goal.
3. Interactive Histogram with Details
Use: Display the count of items in each group & a detailed report of the selected group
Description: When you click the dollar range under each bar, you're actually activating a slicer that displays a pivot table to the right detailing each of the entries that make up that data set. This interactive chart is great for diving deeper into the data without losing the bigger picture.
4. Dynamic Histogram or Frequency Distribution Chart
Use: Quickly change the group or bin size to tell a different story.
Description: This histogram includes a scroll bar at the bottom that allows you to change the number of groups you are examining. The data tells different stories as you increase or decrease the number of ranges that you're looking at.
5. Annual Trend with Monthly Details
Data: Time Series
Use: Display a trend within a trend and compare it to averages.
Tutorial: Monthly Average vs Current Year Chart
Description: With this chart you can simultaneously see how your data is trending for two time increments (years, quarters, months, weeks, etc.), and also how it compares to past averages.
6. Interactive Waterfall Chart
Data: Time Series, Inventory, CRM, Pipeline
Use: Display the details of how numbers changed over time.
Tutorial: Interactive Waterfall Chart Dashboard
Description: This chart is really a mini-dashboard that is good for telling what happened from a starting number to an ending number and how different factors added to or subtracted from that number over time.
7. Variance on Clustered Charts
Use: Display the variance when comparing two categories for multiple series.
Description: Regular clustered bar/column charts don't display a variance between the bars. This technique not only shows the variances, but also conditional formats the variance with different colors for positive or negative changes.
8. Actual vs. Multiple Targets Chart
Use: Display multiple targets or goals compared to actuals.
Tutorial: Actual vs Targets Chart in Excel
Description: These charts compare a number to multiple targets. This is great for actuals versus budget, forecast, goal, etc. They can be oriented horizontally or vertically, and you can also include an attainment percentage for a better idea of how close you are to meeting your goals.
9. Stacked Bar with Dynamic Data Labels
Data: Time Series and Categorical
Use: Quickly switch data between data labels to make stacked charts easier to read.
Description: I'm not a big proponent of stacked bar charts because they are often hard to read. It's difficult for our eyes to compare the size of the bars due to the uneven baselines.
So this chart allows you to quickly change the data labels to make it a bit easier to compare the series within the bars. For alternatives to stacked bar charts, such as a panel chart, checkout this post: Stacked Column Bar Chart Alternatives – Find the Missing Trends.
10. Comparative Distribution Chart
Use: Compare a segment or category to all other categories for multiple series.
Description: This chart allows you to compare values to multiple segments across multiple categories. It can be a great alternative to quartile plots or multiple histograms.
Bonus: Zoom on Charts Macro
Use: Sheet or dashboard contains a lot of small charts that are difficult to read.
Tutorial: Zoom on Excel Charts
Description: The macro I created adds a button to the chart for an easy zoom feature, allowing you to focus on one chart at a time if you have several on one page.
I hope these charts whet your appetite for displaying your data in creative ways and telling the stories behind your data with visualization. If you're not getting our weekly emails yet, then click here to join our Free Excel Pro Tips Newsletter. We send out a practical and useful tutorial at least once a week to help make you the Excel Hero of your workplace.
Until next time, happy charting! 🙂