Why use pie charts?

  • They are clear: Most people don’t have time to dig into mountains of data to find the
    information they’re looking for. By using a chart instead of a data table or multiple lines of text you’ll save your readers a huge amount of time and effort. And they’ll thank you for it!
  • They are more convincing: When you’re using data to make a point or convince someone to adopt a plan, you’ll find it’s always more effective to put things in perspective. Pie charts are perfect for perspective.
  • They are more likely to be read: Charts and diagrams will always make your document more interesting, and the subtle introduction of colors can make your document visually attractive. Net result, it’s more like to be read.
  • They are more likely to be remembered: We are far better at memorizing images than text or numbers. By turning your information into a visual, you are making it easier to remember.

When it make sense to use them

  • Your values show a relevant difference – If for example you are comparing 3 segments that are 31%, 35% and 34% of the total, the visual difference will be very small and the chart hard to interpret. If you values are similar then pie charts aren’t a good option, and a bar graph would be a far better choice.
  • You want to compare each part to the total – Let’s say your company has 3 products and you want to show how the sales of each product count towards total revenue. In this case a bar chart might be the best way to show it visually. For example, if you want to compare this year’s sales to last year’s, then a stacked bar chart makes sense.
  • You have a limited number of segments – Pie charts aren’t really suitable for displaying more than 10 slices. Beyond that it simply becomes confusing, as the slices become too small to tell the difference between them and draw any conclusions. For data with more segments, a table may work better.

Common mistakes to avoid

Useless and sometimes even ridiculous pie charts are all too common.

Using a well designed pie chart will definitely enhance your document, but using a poor one is worse than no chart at all!

Using incomplete data. A pie chart is a whole, and therefore your data should always include the whole. If you find you have less than 100% of the data, it’s best to use another type of diagram or a bar graph, since a pie chart with missing data will make things more rather than less confusing.

Using too many slices. If you need to show more than 5 or 6 slices in your chart, consider using tables or bar charts instead. If you still need to use a pie chart but have too many slices, try to merge slices in a way that makes sense.

Forgetting how the pie chart will be consumed
. If you’re including pie charts in a report that’s going to be printed, keep this in mind when choosing the colors of your segments. If your document is going to be printed in black and white you need to check what your colors will look like when converted into black and white; is there enough contrast to ensure the chart can be understood. Play with shades and tints to avoid this problem, and test print it yourself to make sure it works.

Failing to explain enough.
Make sure you add all the information required to interpret your chart. This includes a clear title, and a legend explaining the different parts of the chart. And note that the legend position can also help to make the data clear (the best is as close to the slice as possible). Sometimes you might want to add a few lines highlighting the conclusions.

Not showing where the data comes from. Although not necessary in every chart, it’s good practice to include information about the source of your data. What’s more, if the data has come from a trusted source, it can add more authority to your chart. Often the source can be placed in the captions of the chart.

Pie chart alternatives

A simple pie chart is the most commonly used, for good reason.

But there are some variations that are suited for specific purposes. These are the 3 most common ones you can create:

Exploded pie chart: In this case, one of the slices has ‘exploded’, that is it appears separated from the rest of the chart. You can use this type of pie chart chart when you want to emphasize one of the slices—like the biggest one, or perhaps the slice you want to talk about.

3D pie chart: You can add a third dimension to your chart. 3D charts are sometimes used for aesthetic reasons, but a pie chart study has shown that 3D charts can actually be more difficult to read. We recommend you only use 3D charts if you really know why you’re doing it and it fits with your brand style, otherwise stick to normal ones (like the ones you can find in Xara Cloud).

Donut chart: As the name suggests, donut charts have a hole in the center where you can add the main number. If you have a 2 slice pie chart and you particularly want to emphasize one of the segments, then a donut chart can help you by showing the percentage right in the center, where it’s impossible to miss it. They are not suitable for pies with multiple slices.

Creating Pie Charts in Xara Cloud

Xara Cloud is a online editor that enables you to easily create any document, from presentations and social media graphics to flyers and CVs , starting from one our templates.

Our templates are carefully created by design professionals, so you can be confident that your documents will always look professional and on-brand, no design experience required.

You will find a library of diagrams in Xara Cloud including pie charts and bar charts. Simply choose one of our pie chart templates and enter your data. Use Xara Cloud as you pie chart maker and you’ll soon be downloading your chart – or even better, use one of our document templates and add your customized charts to make it even more compelling.

Some common questions about charts in Xara Cloud

Creating charts and diagrams in Xara Cloud is easy: simply add the desired element, then edit it by clicking and typing, or using drag and drop. But these are some of the common questions that we’re asked, so you might want to bookmark this page for future reference:

How do I change the percentages?

There are two easy ways to change the percentages in our charts:
– Drag the green handle to the number you need. You can see the number change as you move it.
– Or just type the percentage. Click on the number in your chart, type your desired percentage and the whole chart will adjust.

How do I add more than 2 slices to my pie in Xara Cloud?

Xara Cloud’s pie charts have 2 slices by default, but you can easily create pie charts with as many slices as you want with our SmartShapes. Check out this video tutorial:

How do I change colors?

Your chart will automatically inherit the theme colors of your document by default. To ensure consistency Xara Cloud documents have a color palette that’s used by all the elements.

You can of course change the color palette of your document, via the Document Colors section in the Document Properties. But if you simply want to change the colors of your chart, click on the chart and then go to the Colors menu. There you can choose any colors you want, either from the palette you are using or any other colors.

What are pie charts?

Pie charts are commonly used in presentations and reports to show data in a visual way. They’re the ideal way to show a percentage breakdown of your data, giving perspective to your numbers at a glance.

A typical example of pie chart would be a breakdown of a population into age groups. Each age group would be shown as a slice of the pie, the size of the slice representing the age group’s percentage of the total population pie. The visual approach will make it quickly obvious which age groups are predominant.

Pie charts are also popular for displaying the results of surveys. A visual display of your data in a pie chart will always be far easier to digest than a list of percentages!

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