Creating Effective Scatter Plots

Categories: Excel Charts

Scatter Plots can be very useful when used correctly, but they can also be somewhat difficult to create and layout properly. The biggest problem with these types of charts is that they can occasionally result in a messy clump of dots that is confusing and difficult to read. However, in some cases a scatter plot is the better choice.

Scatter plots are best used to show two related sets of data. That is to say, you can coordinate your x and y axes so that your scatter plot shows both product growth and product market share on the same chart. There are some steps you can take to ensure that this type of chart does not become too confusing however.

If you are using a few sets of data, it is best to use specific colours to represent each set. In this way it will be easy for users to distinguish between different groups of data. If there are data points that overlap, consider using a different symbol to represent this. This stops the chart from becoming too cluttered, while also making sure that no information is omitted. If you do find that the scatter plot is becoming messy and confusing however, you should consider dividing the data into two or more charts.

A scatter plot is especially useful if you have the kind of data that you would usually represent on a line chart, but have uneven data points. For example if one of the axes on the line chart would represent time, but your time points are unevenly spaced, a scatter plot would probably be more appropriate and effective. Scatter plots are also very useful if used with a ‘temperature’ colour scheme. That is to say if you use red to represent highest concentrations or intensities and blue to represent lower figures, along with all of the varying shades of blue, green, yellow and orange in between. In this way users get an instant impression of the overall data, and your plot becomes more intuitive.


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