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August 15, 20162 min read

Five Mistakes to Avoid - Pie Charts

To visualize our data, using a pie chart can be a good choice, but we need to know how to use it. If we google it up, we can find many examples of pie charts, but most of them are not correct. In this article, we will show the five most common mistakes. If we avoid them, we can be pretty sure we will make a correct pie chart.

The following picture shows the best example of an incorrect pie chart.

badpie chart


Let’s go through the mistakes one by one:

  1. Use a minimum of two and a maximum of three or four categories. If we use more, the chart will not be easy to understand, and the viewers will be lost in the details.
  2. A 3D version makes no sense. It sounds good that we have a 3D pie chart, but the only thing we get is more chaos. Of course, there is always a good example or a good case for using 3D pie charts. Steve Jobs used one, but it was a special case. For everyday usage, 2D pie charts are the bests.
  3. Using different shades and opacity also does not make any sense. In data visualization, we want to make the charts more understandable, not more complicated.
  4. Place the data and the legend on the chart, not somewhere besides the chart. It is confusing if our eyes have to move between the numbers and the chart. However, if we do place the numbers in different boxes, right align them.
  5. Do not use exploded pie charts. It is harder to compare the sizes of the parts. Do not forget, keep it simple and easy to understand.


For more information about circle visualizations, check out our previous blogpost and learn more about data science: The Mystery of Circle Visualization

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