Category Archives: Thoughts

Piecharts: dark side without cookies

I was just reading a security article when I realized that it’s a fairly interesting data that is actually rather valuable, but its representation is completely wrong. And it’s mostly because of extensive pie charts usage. There’s an excellent review of what in particular is wrong with pie charts (in many ways), so I won’t repeat that – I’ll just do a short “case study” here.

So let’s have a look at this one example:

Most frequently targeted countries in 2012-2013


Note that I copied it with a part of URL, and that’s for a reason that I’m gonna start the list with:

  1. it doesn’t fit on screen (chart subject couldn’t fit at all), and my Air is not the smallest screen example. Yes, legend could be rearranged, but…
  2. chart needs a separate legend anyways. You just can’t properly tie labels (not even numbers) to slices – all attempts are futile. Which makes it a mandatory
  3. to travel back and forth between slice size, its location, number and legend (and scroll if your screen is not huge). And then my favorite,
  4. colors! Every chart that needs more than few (like, 4) colors is a bad idea. I cannot tell Ukraine from Vietnam here (no one needs to know what’s under 3%, but let’s leave that aside) and India from Kazakhstan color-wise. And I’m not even color-blind in this spectrum! (although I am in red-green shades, so I feel for others)

And now what the above essentially is:

Most frequently targeted countries in 2012-2013


yes, it’s THAT¬†bloody simple! And it’s a very fast approach. And you can easily reduce sight travel (and improve precision) like this:

Most frequently targeted countries in 2012-2013


That’s it! One color, tightly packed (yet not crumpled), neat and straight to the point. Ain’t no jolly colors, true that – but it ain’t no lollypop fare ad either.

So… just don’t use those pie charts, there’s pretty much no use case where they are better that other visual data representations. Not unless it’s actually a tasty pie you’re sharing, at least.

And while we’re at it: LibreOffice charts widget sucks. Even GoogleDrive, with all the simplicity, shines (usability-wise, at least) in comparison.