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  • David Goldstone

Oh No!, Not The Box-Plot Chart

Box-plot charts in general remind me of that family member who you see once-a-year at the annual family gathering.


They claim to be cleverer than everyone else and claim to know everything about everything . Really, no-one wants to engage them in a conversation because they will bore you silly or everything they talk about will go straight over your head. Box-plots are just like this, but in Chart World. Why? because they are unnecessarily confusing and look way to complicated.


People want to look at a chart and say " Yes, i know what you are saying to me", rather than saying "Ok, I can see all this and I have no idea what you are talking about". 


Box-plots can be represented in a simpler, less confusing way, with minimum effort. A way that doesn't take ages to get their point across, a way that doesn't leave you feeling drained after spending 5 minutes with them.


Here is an example:


Box-plot chart: Loads of data points against their consumption and a 3 lines that look like they have no significance to the data. A bit like our family member at lunch waffling on about something you have no idea about and totally irrelevant to the general conversation at the dinner table.



See below how we can easily represent the same information. Box-plots don't really add much value and you can easily see the outliers without them. If you want to show any data points above the averages, simply use a reference line. This is much easier to understand. 

Alternatively, use another chart entirely. For example: show total consumption for each Month as a bar, rather than using individual datapoints and show the number of datapoints over a certain threshold in a text box. This will speed up your dashboard and look better.


Or....


General Dot chart instead of Bars with a reference line:



Or try a bar chart with a nice distribution line, set at a threshold. Easy to understand, not boring, not confusing.



So, don't invite Uncle Boring box-plot to your next family gathering, and instead, invite the more interesting, more cool, and less confusing Uncle Bar Chart with his new partner, the reference/distribution line.


Now you can enjoy looking the chart and know exactly what it is saying.

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