I'm currently doing some research into graphs for an internal weekly sales email. I've had conflicting feedback as to what type of graph is best for monthly sales vs target. I've trialled two options, and this is the feedback:

  • A gauge with segments: Users like this as it's immediately visible how well they are doing this month vs the target. However some feel that the target marker is somewhat hidden, and if they do extra well (go over 150%, which happens regularly) there's no change.

  • A bar chart: The users that don't like the gauge prefer this, as the "Sales" can keep on increasing. However this is difficult to break into the segments.

So what would be a good compromise between these two? It needs to be visual, and fit into a smallish space - 300px square on an email.

The gauge I have been using is like this (each segment represents 25%, the blue line is 100% or target).

enter image description here

  • 1
    Thanks for your contribution to UXSE :) Can I ask whether this is a customized gauge or whether it comes out of the box (and what kind of data visualization platform is it)?
    – Michael Lai
    Oct 30, 2018 at 23:01

3 Answers 3


Any reason not to just use text? "89%" says what you need to say without readers having to interpret a graph. Fancy it up if you want to:

enter image description here

  • Downside: if you have to compare several values in the same screen the difference is not obvious at a glance (as opposed to different sized bars)
    – Luciano
    Oct 31, 2018 at 12:34
  • True. But the question doesn't mention any comparisons between different values, just the display of a single value compared to a goal. Oct 31, 2018 at 12:57

First thing first: there's not a "best graph for sales" thing. There are graphs that are more suitable for certain scenarios and user cases, which can be really different.

On to your question

I think the gauge is a bit confusing and in terms of data visualization that is a big no-no.

In general, if you want to use charts for sales, you will want to do something simple, clear and where all required data is available at first sight.

Normally, you'll only need amount of sales and time lapse, but you may add other dimensions, such as sales goals, projected sales, +/- difference, whatever. For this purpose, you can use just a mixed bar+line chart where you can display all these dimensions and variables. something like this:

enter image description here

However, you don't even need to build a graph. Since you mention this is for mails, I assume data is static, therefore you can be playful and simply use images that offer a proper visualization of data (this approach is commonly used on infographics)

For more additional info, you can look for more ideas at sales data visualization or see this very well explained article A classification of chart types


I think that a bullet chart or graph would fit the criteria of what you are looking for quite well.

enter image description here

As you can see, it is a very concise way to encode a number of information, and also lets you easily make comparisons with other data sets.

enter image description here

I think there is a misconception that gauges are easy for people to interpret - they are familiar and will attract attention if they are colourful enough (as your design seems to be), but when it comes to the practical aspects of displaying data effectively I can also attest to its shortfalls. But there are use cases for it as well so don't discount it entirely.

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