I have a survey with about 30+ questions which are related to pregnancy and nutrition during pregnancy. Now I need to decide how to show results for each question, basically which type of chart to use (Pie chart, bar chart, column chart, etc). Here are some sample questions:

  • how did you prepare your body?
  • have you changed your eating habits?
  • have you been avoiding alcohol since you found out you were expecting
  • how long have you been breastfeeding?

All of these questions have pre-defined answers (no open/free text answers)

How do I decide which chart to use? Which charts are best when it comes to readability?

The survey results are mostly viewed by mothers and and mothers-to-be.

  • On average, how many possible answer choices are there per question on the original survey? Were there questions with very few (maybe 2) choices? How about the largest number of choices?
    – CJF
    Feb 15, 2013 at 6:47
  • Average 4 answers per question. There are questions with Yes/No answers as well as questions with 7 answers to choose from. Also there are scales, 'on a scale of 1 to 5.....' Feb 17, 2013 at 22:26
  • Thank you all for the answers. I found a nice illustration about how to decide what charts to use design by Andrew Abela. Here's the link: labnol.org/software/find-right-chart-type-for-your-data/6523 Feb 18, 2013 at 0:40

3 Answers 3


How to decide which chart to use is a topic of greater depth than can be covered here. I suggest reading Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It will cover a lot of elements of conveying information such as:

  • What your chart is meant to communicate
  • How people perceive shapes and lines in graphs
  • Some comparisons between effective displays of information vs terrible displays.

Also, among other things, it will hopefully develop in you a hatred of pie charts.


There is a nice article by Seth how you use pie charts vs bar charts. Pie charts contain less data, but are there to state something obvious:

enter image description here

In this graph, Trolls are almost the same size as the rest!

But the bar chart shows you more data, where you often read from left to right showing less importance the further to the right you are in the chart:

enter image description here

Billygoats are the least important as they are further right.

The most important to the right, is the same as listing ingredients on a food package. The list of water, sugar, orange on a juice package should make you worried - since there are more suger than orange in the package.

  • 1
    Best time to use pie charts: never. Feb 15, 2013 at 6:12

Generally speaking, there are 3 main types of data analysis- comparison, transition and composition.

  • For comparisons, Bar and Column charts are the best.
  • For transitions, Line and Area charts work well.
  • For compositions, Pie charts work well.

This infographic further explains when to use which chart: http://www.fusioncharts.com/best-practices/selecting-the-right-chart/

For a more detailed understanding of the differences between:

  • A Column and a Bar chart
  • A Line and an Area chart
    • A Column and a Stacked Column chart

refer this series: http://blog.fusioncharts.com/?s=Choosing+the+right+chart+type

Hope this helps.

Disclaimer: Am a writer at FusionCharts.

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