How to Select the best chart for Presentation or Dashboard?

How to select the best chart by using Abela’s Chart Type Hierarchy for Data Dashboard or Presentation

Abela’s Chart Type Hierarchy

Perhaps the best known, it is based on a chart selection diagram created in 2009 by Dr. Andrew Abela as part of the Extreme Presentation method.

It all starts by asking what you want to represent with the data, and according to the answer the charts can be grouped into four main types:

  • Comparison: when we want to compare the different values or attributes within the data with each other. There are some variants, depending on the data. For example: Does the data include the time variable? How many time periods? How many variables and categories do the data present?
  • Composition: when we want to know how the data is composed, that is, what general characteristics are present in the data set. There are some variants, depending on the data. For example: Are there changes over time? With how many time periods? In static data, do you have values that accumulate?
  • Distribution: when we want to understand how the individual data points are distributed within the entire data set. Depending on the number of variables in which we want to analyze the distribution, we can choose bar charts, line charts or scatter charts.
  • Relationship: in this case, we are interested in knowing how the values and attributes are related to each other. To face the values, scatter charts are usually used when two variables are involved, and bubble charts are used when three variables are involved.

Of these four types, it is most likely that in the majority of cases the first two, Comparison and Composition, will be used, unless you have advanced statistical analysis needs.

As you can see, the majority of problems may be resolved using a few different types of fundamental charts, while different variations can be used for each individual case. The most popular charts, in all of their variations, are those with bars and lines (horizontal or vertical, simple or stacked, etc.). The data table is typically utilized when a lot of detail is needed.

The Data Viz Project

If you access ** The Data Viz Project ** website, several alternatives appear in the Function menu that help us select from a set of charts according to the function we want to apply.

For example, if we select the option Trend over time they offer us, among other options, the following:

How to choose the right chart for your data

In this case, the set of charts shown is very wide and should be taken as possibilities that must be analyzed in each case with caution, depending on the nature of our data.

Undoubtedly, this project is very didactic and has specific pages for each type of chart, in which, as a detailed tab, it indicates a description for its use, the functions it fulfils, the necessary data format and a good list of examples.

From data to Viz

If you access the From data to Viz website, you can also have recommendations on the type of chart to use according to the role it should play with your data. This case is also very visual and labels the different charts by colour.

For example, if you want to represent a ranking between elements (TOP / BOTTOM), these types of charts are proposed:

How to choose the right chart for your data

As in other cases, we recommend carefully analyzing what you want to achieve and the format of the data you have, to properly select a specific type of chart.

Data Viz Catalogue

Similar to the previous cases, on the web datavizcatalogue.com you have a search engine for chart types according to their function.

How to choose the right chart for your data

In addition to the classic functions that charts can perform, in this case, they show us other not-so-common ones, such as:

  • Hierarchies
  • Processes and methods
  • Movement or flow
  • Ranks


To get the most out of our data, it’s crucial to choose the type of chart that is most appropriate for it. Generally speaking, a chart should be able to graphically respond to the queries we have regarding our data.

Because of this, we typically advise using charts that are as straightforward as feasible for the task at hand. As a result, we will be able to comprehend them clearly and derive from the information patterns in our data adequate analytical meaning to enable us to respond to business inquiries.

Depending on the type of chart you choose and the choices you make, the data can reveal different information, leading to varying outcomes.

Once you have configured a good type of graph, incorporating the correct information on each axis and chart is significant in helping you to ensure good communicative skills. For instance, the configuration of data presented on your graphs helps you transmit basic communication using the bar, column, pie, line, and trend portrayal.

Bad Charts

Read more about the charts you must avoid.

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