Steve Fenton

Beach ball charts are worse than pie charts

Beach Ball ChartsIt seems to me that the tide is now turning against the pie chart. Most of the discussions I discover these days are via track-backs to my website where someone has cited one of my opinion pieces in a discussion about how pie charts are pretty much always the wrong way to display your data.

Obviously, if you are trying to deliberately make data hard to read in order to hide some nasty numbers, or if you work in an old-school marketing team – you are still going to love pie charts. Who doesn’t like pies right?

Sadly though, just when you think that the war is won and data is safe, someone invents the beach ball chart.

Almost everything that makes a pie chart bad applies directly to the beach ball chart – except it is all much worse. If a sector (a triangle with one curved side) is hard to accurately judge, a collection of waxing and waning crescents are much more difficult to size – especially given the confusion over whether the beach ball represents a three-dimensional object or not.

I personally don’t think we need to dumb-down data at all, but if you really must add frills when you display information, please make sure the decoration doesn’t become more important than the subject itself.

Surely even the pie-defenders can’t come up with a scenario where these charts are the best tool for the job?

Written by Steve Fenton on