What kind of charts show Plan (forecast) versus Actual for a series of points in time?


  • Goal vs Actual sales in each quarter of the year
  • Forecast vs Actual energy consumption in each month of the year
  • Household expenditures, budget vs actually spent, each week of the quarter.

The obvious way is to simply chart a pair of lines, Y-axis is amount, X-axis is time intervals. One line for Plan/Forecast, another line for Actual.

Any alternatives are welcome. Specifically:

  • Hi Basil, unless there is a specific user interaction you are designing for, this question may be better suited for graphicdesign.stackexchange.com
    – tohster
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 0:21
  • @tohster Thanks. I tried to flag the question to a moderator for migration to the other StackExchange. Not sure if I was successful. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 3:55
  • I don't see how graphicdesign.SE works better. The question is about data visualization, something that very handedly falls under the umbrella of UX. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 5:58
  • 1
    I have to agree with @EvilClosetMonkey. If it were about the design of a given type of chart, it would be better on graphic design. However this is about visualisation and how to communicate a concept, so I think it's a valid UX question.
    – JohnGB
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 6:13

1 Answer 1


Don't overcomplicate it by trying to figure out something neat and cutting edge. People get a simple x- and y-axis with a few lines on it.

With the graph below, I can see instantly how the two numbers relate. I can see that in 2001 things went really well, and I can easily point this out when yelling at middle management as to why we still aren't doing that well.

enter image description here

Combination graphs can also be useful if you want to show several different types of related data in one graph.

enter image description here

Both are simple and straight forward. I can easily pull the two numbers I need (3 in the case of the 2nd graph) and do what I need with them.

(Graph Credit: Correlate and Compare Graphs)

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