I have a series of events during the day. If I group them in hours I might have something like this:

20 events from 10:00:00 to 10:59:59
30 events from 11:00:00 to 11:59:59
10 events from 12:00:00 to 12:59:59
and so on

If I were to create a bar chart it would be easy by glance to know that maybe I had most of my events in the afternoon and particularly between 15 and 16.

So far so good...

but my question is, what's the most common way to represent events over a period of time ? arguably a heat map also could do the job.

I keep thinking this might be a common problem but I can't think of a nice solution.

  • 1
    What's wrong with using a bar chart? – ChrisF Apr 28 '12 at 22:06
  • @ChrisF nothing wrong with bar chart. I just wonder what the 'most' common solution for representing events over a period of time is. If it is a bar chart then I will do it. Also, one issue with the bar chart is that I need to define the period in which to group the events (e.g.: every hour) – lorenzo Apr 28 '12 at 22:19
  • There's no "most common" solution to visualization because the type of visualization depends on how the data is used. The purpose of visualizations in general is to help people come to conclusions faster, so you need to decide yourself what is most useful to your users. – dnbrv Apr 29 '12 at 18:09
  • might help similar question ux.stackexchange.com/questions/19295/… – sree Apr 30 '12 at 10:13
  • A heat map won't help you if you want to be precise with the number of events, so that would not be a suitable choice if the user needs to know the exact number (unless you provided some meaningful tooltip or a table with the same information). – Michael Lai Mar 25 '13 at 3:01

You may be asking the wrong question. Consider asking which presentation of the data helps viewers to correctly interpret the data, faster.

Look at the many, many alternatives. And, depending on what's at stake, consider testing them on your target audience. What does each of these graphs—or graphs in other formats—"say" to them?

enter image description here

  • sorry, but I don't get why I am asking the wrong question. I am just asking: Most common way (or ways) to display events over a period of time ? No tricks – lorenzo Apr 29 '12 at 17:29
  • 2
    @lorenzo: You're asking the wrong question because you don't understand why you need to visualize the data. As Jerome has said, visualizations help people interpret the data faster, so your choice of the graph type depends on the decision your user needs to make after looking at it. – dnbrv Apr 29 '12 at 18:11

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