This is an example of the default settings for a bar chart in Excel. This is functional but could be far more effective; here are my main steps I use to create quick, effective data visualisations.
- Remove chart borders.
- Show data in a useful order (alphabetically, or ranked, or some other important order).
- Keep gridlines and reduce their colour, or remove them entirely.
- If you remove gridlines, consider adding data labels.
- If data labels have been added consider removing y-axis labels.
- Add axis titles where the values shown aren’t inherently obvious.
- Reduce the colour used in the chart.
- Highlight the important data points.
- Use white space effectively, but don’t leave excessive amounts.
- Where possible use a chart title that helps the user see the points that you’ve highlighted and their context. Annotate any other points you’ve highlighted, why are they interesting?
- Use colour to create a relationship between your annotations/title and the highlighted data points.
These steps will help you turn your default Excel charts into impactive and attractive data visualisations: