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Consider Tables

Explore how a simple table can sometimes show data better than a chart.

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Did you read the title of this page correctly? Are we really suggesting that you should consider using a table rather than a chart? You might have heard the reverse more often -- about using charts rather than tables but like for everything else in life, there's not one glove that fits all hands -- or in this case, there's not one solution that can work with all sorts of data.

Let's imagine that you have some simple data to start with -- maybe something on the lines of revenue from one division being $2000 and the revenue from another division being $50 million. Now whatever you do, and even if you work hard to create a faux split chart, you will still compare a trend that's not comparable, at least not in a chart. Use a table instead, and the data can be so easily compared. It's one of those times when you should not complicate something that's simple enough.

In such and similar scenarios, a simple table with a few columns and rows can portray some data better than a chart. A table is a perfectly acceptable solution -- and there are times when it can indeed help your audience understand things better than a chart.

A simple table can sometimes show data better than a chart
Figure 1: A simple table can sometimes show data better than a chart

Want another analogy? We won't go too far to find this analogy: imagine the humble multiplication table presented as a chart? Some things are meant to stay simple -- just don't complicate them. Your audience will be happier, and so will you.


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