Advanced Google Chart Tools

Did you have fun with the updated Google Chart Tools? Well, that’s only the tip of the iceberg of fun and possibility. Google has created a chart gallery with different kinds of prototypes for you to play with.

I will explain to you how we could use some of those prototypes for better data storytelling. You can also consider this as your first step into the information design world, thinking about grouping and presenting information.

Adding Annotations To Charts

Did you know that you can add annotations to your Google charts? And it’s not difficult at all. Annotate a chart by creating a separate column filled with your annotation text to the right of the data points or horizontal axis you’re annotating.

I created an example and added this not-so-useful annotation to this earthquake chart, but you get the idea. You can see the original Google spreadsheet here. Google also provided a tutorial to walk you through the process.

Scatter Plot

A scatter chart displays numeric coordinates along the X- and Y-axis. The data in your spreadsheet is displayed as a collection of points on a graph, each having the value of one variable determining the position on the horizontal axis and the value of the other variable determining the position on the vertical axis. Your data should be formatted in two columns, all of which contain numeric data. The first column of data should contain X-values on your chart, while the second column should contain Y-values. A quick example of the chart that shows relationship between temperature and ice cream sales.

Organization Chart

List all group members in one column of your spreadsheet, and their hierarchical or higher-level relationship in the next column. When you insert the chart into your spreadsheet, you’ll see something similar to the chart below. You can see how the information is organized in the spreadsheet.

Tree Map

Remember those types of nested rectangles? They are called tree maps, and they are often used for visualizing hierarchical structures.

Some good examples include the New York Times’ Obama budget proposal, Google’s News Map and CNN’s World Cup Twitter Buzz. They all have advanced functionalities to allow users to either zoom into one tile of information or link out to other pages, but sometimes a simple mouse-over will work out nicely.

Many data sets have a hierarchical structure: items are divided into categories, subcategories, and so on. Categories are shown with different colors and sizes depending on the values.

The way you organize your information and data in the spreadsheet is the key to making this graphic.

Google also provided a tutorial to describe the data format of this type of graphic.

  • In the first column, enter the name of an object in your hierarchy.
  • In the second column, enter the name of the object’s parent. Each parent name must also appear in the first column.
  • The third column is the numerical value of the object and controls the size of the box. This value must be positive. This column might be empty for entities with children entities, since the value for a parent entity is calculated by aggregating the values of the children.
  • The optional fourth column is a numerical value that controls the color of the box. The values in the fourth column aren’t aggregated and they can be negative.

Check out the prototype I created below and in the spreadsheet.

Bar chart, line chart and pie chart are still the most handy visualizations. Give the above charts a try when you find your data is too difficult to handle with basic bar or line graphs. Be creative!

Want to learn more about Google chart tools? Check out Google’s help site, also let me or Jessica know when you have questions.

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