Playing with pie charts

I was on GameSpot recently and under the user reviews found these three pie charts:

Quality Pie Chart

Difficulty Pie Chart

Time Pie Chart

While the pies are a great quick visual presentation, when I read the labels I have to process the information more than I should—just because they're sorted by frequency. I'm also left to ponder whether the "Other" category (used to keep the number of slices reasonable) is entirely at one end of the rating spectrum or represents a mix of responses. The frequency sorting and Other grouping are great choices for unordered data, but when you have ordered scales consider whether one of these other approaches may provide a clearer picture.

Sticking with pies, you can simply adjust the sort order:

Time Pie Chart

Or there are stacked bar charts, especially when you have multiple questions with a common scale:

Time Stacked Bars

Personally, when I'm dealing with single questions I like to go with a plain old bar graph:

Time Bar Graph

It's my favorite for two reasons. First, it keeps a placeholder for any options with no responses, such as in the difficulty pie where we're left to guess whether there's a "Very Hard" rating to parallel "Very Easy." Second, it lets one more easily spot patterns than the pies, such as this sharp drop-off or a dual peak distribution.

Need a Hand?

A little help can add a lot of polish—or just save hours and headaches:

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Ann has been a great resource for us. She responds timely, has good suggestions, and really knows her craft. Ann is our primary resource when it comes to major surveys and reports.

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Effective Resources