Fire data isn’t ugly
Presenting fire data effectively series
Episode: pie is rarely a good idea
July 2015
A makeover of fire department
data to transform it from
unclear and underperforming
to powerfully informative.
Microsoft Excel is not just a powerful tool to keep data
and spreadsheets. It’s a friend for creating quick charts.
Howeve...
Exhibit: pie chart
There are better choices
Other, 9%
Abdominal Pain,
10%
Cardiac, 15%
General
Weakness, 17%
Respiratory, 20%
Neurological, 21%
Initial Patient Compla...
Biology is against pie
The human eye perceives height
and length easily, not angles of
areas in a circle
Pie charts are great when emphasizing parts of a whole
but stick with a max of 3 categories. A high number, a
small number...
Better chart type
Bar charts and column charts
are perfect when comparing
categories
For this data we’re really just interested in the
prevalence of each complaint. Both charts quickly
convey some sort of an...
When working with charts that have long labels, the
column chart falls flat. It forces the axis labels into
some funky ang...
Instead, try on a bar chart. This type of chart can
handle the long bar labels. Bonus: your reader doesn’t
have to hurt th...
Start by removing the default bolding on the title.
Bold text is difficult to read and does not look good
when printed. Th...
My preference is to shift the axis labels to the top for
column charts. It’s easier to read top to bottom.
I slightly dark...
Lighten the gridlines and remove the black outline.
This brings the bars front and center, the stars they
should be! Your ...
Thicken the bars to add weight.
White space is nice but too much disconnects the
categories you are presenting here.
0% 5%...
Add labels to the inside of the bars.
This part is tricky. I added data labels but formatted
them to appear “Inside end” u...
Black labels are not a good choice here. Instead, a nice
contrast is created by switching the labels to white.
I use the s...
Labeling the inside of the bars allows our eyes to easily
find the end of each bar without cluttering the white
space arou...
It takes the right chart to show off your data.
The most beautiful chart won’t help you if it doesn’t
meet the needs of th...
If you have something specific to say, format the chart
to emphasize your conclusions from the data. A little
color and a ...
Avoid indigestion
Dress your data for presentation,
not dinner.
Hello! I’m Sara Wood and I love converting fire service members into
NFIRS operatives. I’m the State NFIRS program manager...
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Episode: Pie is Rarely a Good Idea

Pie is great for holidays but it's not very effective at presenting fire data.
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Published in: Data & Analytics      
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - Episode: Pie is Rarely a Good Idea

  • 1. Fire data isn’t ugly Presenting fire data effectively series Episode: pie is rarely a good idea July 2015
  • 2. A makeover of fire department data to transform it from unclear and underperforming to powerfully informative.
  • 3. Microsoft Excel is not just a powerful tool to keep data and spreadsheets. It’s a friend for creating quick charts. However, you are responsible for choosing the right chart type. Choosing the wrong chart can kill your data.
  • 4. Exhibit: pie chart There are better choices
  • 5. Other, 9% Abdominal Pain, 10% Cardiac, 15% General Weakness, 17% Respiratory, 20% Neurological, 21% Initial Patient Complaint
  • 6. Biology is against pie The human eye perceives height and length easily, not angles of areas in a circle
  • 7. Pie charts are great when emphasizing parts of a whole but stick with a max of 3 categories. A high number, a small number, or an even distribution can be presented fairly well with a pie chart. Even better if you add a callout stating what the reader should take away from the chart! 88% of our FD members are male 12% of our FD members are female Our membership consists of almost an equal amount of males and females.
  • 8. Better chart type Bar charts and column charts are perfect when comparing categories
  • 9. For this data we’re really just interested in the prevalence of each complaint. Both charts quickly convey some sort of answers. Note: I’ve left both charts at default view. We’ll clean them up in a minute. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Initial Patient Complaint 0% 10% 20% 30% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 10. When working with charts that have long labels, the column chart falls flat. It forces the axis labels into some funky angles or even worse, fully vertical. This is not nice to your readers. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other AbdominalPain Cardiac General… Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Initial Patient Complaint
  • 11. Instead, try on a bar chart. This type of chart can handle the long bar labels. Bonus: your reader doesn’t have to hurt their neck! Now let’s work on improving the default chart. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 12. Start by removing the default bolding on the title. Bold text is difficult to read and does not look good when printed. The letters bleed together. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 13. My preference is to shift the axis labels to the top for column charts. It’s easier to read top to bottom. I slightly darkened the bars to a more saturated blue. It’s a small thing you barely notice but would print better. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 14. Lighten the gridlines and remove the black outline. This brings the bars front and center, the stars they should be! Your eyes have guidance without being overwhelmed. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 15. Thicken the bars to add weight. White space is nice but too much disconnects the categories you are presenting here. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 16. Add labels to the inside of the bars. This part is tricky. I added data labels but formatted them to appear “Inside end” under Label Position. You can do this by right clicking any label and choosing Format Data Labels. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint 8% 9% 10% 15% 17% 20% 21% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 17. Black labels are not a good choice here. Instead, a nice contrast is created by switching the labels to white. I use the size of the labels to determine if the bars are too thick or too thin. Adjust so the text fits nicely. 8% 9% 10% 15% 17% 20% 21% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint 8% 9% 10% 15% 17% 20% 21% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 18. Labeling the inside of the bars allows our eyes to easily find the end of each bar without cluttering the white space around them. 8% 9% 10% 15% 17% 20% 21% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint 8% 9% 10% 15% 17% 20% 21% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint
  • 19. It takes the right chart to show off your data. The most beautiful chart won’t help you if it doesn’t meet the needs of the data being presented. 8% 9% 10% 15% 17% 20% 21% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological Initial Patient Complaint Other, 9% Abdominal Pain, 10% Cardiac, 15% General Weakness, 17% Respiratory, 20% Neurological , 21% Initial Patient Complaint
  • 20. If you have something specific to say, format the chart to emphasize your conclusions from the data. A little color and a more detailed title are all you need. 8% 9% 10% 15% 17% 20% 21% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% Trauma Other Abdominal Pain Cardiac General Weakness Respiratory Neurological We need to add training for neurological complaints to the calendar, as we have mostly focused training on trauma and cardiac incidents.
  • 21. Avoid indigestion Dress your data for presentation, not dinner.
  • 22. Hello! I’m Sara Wood and I love converting fire service members into NFIRS operatives. I’m the State NFIRS program manager for Kansas and enjoy providing classes to help bring fire departments into the era of data driven decisions. If you need help creating a presentation or analyzing your data, I’d love to hear from you!

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