Quick Steps to Make Effective Data Visualisations

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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.

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Data Visualisation Excel Examples How to

HOW TO… Excel: Create a hierarchical series of drop down boxes

As a result of prodding around the excel subreddit I found a query from user innocuous_gorilla about creating drop downs that are dependent upon each other. Due to working at NHS England where we have a massive array of organisation types and hierarchies, I quickly learnt how to do this! For example, in NHS England we have different regions, sub-regions and commissioning groups which tend to be massive long lists if un-filtered, so it makes it hard to select one in a drop down where all options available. Using the following method, you can make a set of drop downs that all depend on a master drop down(s), so choosing a region or sub-region filters the commissioning group drop down box to only those groups that belong to the chosen parent region.

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HOW TO… VBA: Compare VBA Combo Box Values with Their Lists

Preamble

So, a recent issue I’ve had using VBA to create UserForms to handle data input is data validation. Throughout my UserForm I’ve included a variety of Combo Boxes that contain lists of information the user can select. In most instances I would like the user to have inputted exactly one of the options within the drop down provided with the combo box; VBA has its own property to handle whether Combo Boxes require an exact match – the MatchRequired property. While this can be used, it creates an issue where if a user leaves a combo box unfilled the combo box will say there is a no match and therefore an error – locking the user out of the form until they input something that is a match. My UserForm is used for modifying and inputting requests our team has had, therefore certain Combo Boxes won’t be able to be filled until a request itself has been completed, with fields such as ‘Quality Assured By:’ only being relevant when the work done has been QA’d. In this instance this Match Required error would cause the user to be forced to enter incorrect data to proceed with the form if they’d accidently clicked into this combo box.

To get around this I turned off the MatchRequired property and created my own data validation Subroutine to check if the value held by each combo box matches a value within the combo box’s list. To do this we will need to create an array of arrays and then iterate through those arrays, something that’s fairly straight forward in more robust languages like Python and C# but a bit more finicky in VBA. Below is some example code which we’ll go through step by step.

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HOW TO… Excel: Create a Dynamic Data Range for a Chart

Continuing the theme of automatically updating charts, we’re going to look at how to make a chart deal with a dynamically changing data range. This is useful for situations where you have multiple measures that each have a different number of independent variables (the variables plotted on our x-axis, which was the month of the year in our last example). If you use the method as lined out in the last tutorial for this you will find that the chart updates automatically, but the number of variables shown on the x-axis will not change. To solve this, we will need to use Named Ranges; OFFSET; and COUNT to produce the ranges that will feed the automatically updating charts.

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HOW TO… Excel: Create an Automatically Updating Chart

Following on from our last series of HOW TO… Excel, we’re going to expand the concepts used to create the dynamic data table and create another sheet for the same workbook that will be the home of an automatically updating chart! Unlike pivot charts, this will be able to update as soon as new data is inputted into the data backsheets, and will be connected to the same ‘linked cell’ as our previous combo box, so the changes will be persistent throughout the workbook. This will allow us to create a consistent and pleasing user experience for whom ever will be using the tool.

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HOW TO… Excel: Using SUMIFS to Create a Dynamic Data Table

This is a continuation of the previous tutorial.

Due to the volatility of the INDIRECT function, it may be necessary to avoid using it when trying to create large dashboards which will be handling and outputting large amounts of data. So, we’ll need an alternative in these cases. One of the ways this can be done is by using the SUMIFS function, and structuring our data to be compatible with the SUMIFS function.

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HOW TO… Excel: Create a Dynamic Data Table Using INDIRECT and Combo Boxes

IndirectTutorialGif

Creating a full and cohesive user experience in an Excel based dashboard can be really difficult if you don’t know where to start. Often, the easiest way to approach the situation will be to utilise Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts, which come with useful tools like slicers to dynamically filter the data with a touch of a button. I have a few pet peeves with Pivots however, mainly being that they require data be in a particular layout; that they can be restrictive on the type and layout of the output they produce (although they do provide a good level of options); and when updating or changing data within a spreadsheet Pivoted data does not refresh unless it’s explicitly told to (which can create a jarring experience when handling and presenting larger data sets).

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