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Why You Don’t Need A Gauge Chart Add-On

There are many dashboards which feature gauge charts as important components of their displays. This leads a lot of novice dashboard designers to think that these are vital, useful and necessary charts which should always be incorporated into a dashboard design. While initially it may seem that these charts do give a lot of necessary information, on closer inspection it can be seen that they are in fact quite limited and that a simple line chart can provide considerably more data while occupying the same space.

A gauge chart is capable of providing at most four items of information. Firstly, its needle tells you a particular value. This is typically the current value of some key data set. The colours on the gauge then provide you with three other pieces of information – which values are defined as the danger areas, which are considered to be average, and what value most be exceeded to achieve optimum performance. While these are all valid and important data points, they can easily be displayed using the background colours of a line chart and a single data point.

You can view a gauge chart as a vertical cross section of the very last point of a line chart, where the background has been coloured red, orange and green. The red area is of course the negative region of the chart, the orange is average and the green is good. Clearly, the finally data point of the line chart gives you an indicator of where this particular KPI lies, and also it’s precise value. Crucially however, the remainder of the line chart provides you with additional information that can dramatically affect the interpretation of this data point. If the trend line has dropped suddenly towards this final value this gives a certain impression, as opposed to a trend line that has fluctuated in or around that same final value over a given period of time. Clearly, this data is important for correct analysis of KPIs and to help determine strategies going forward. There are many add-ons available for download which allow you to generate gauge charts in Excel. However it is quite obvious that these charts are largely ineffective and inefficient.

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