Interactive Bar Charts as alternative​ to Pie Charts for Data Visualization (updated)

Pie charts are most widely used in business visualizations and there are people who are passionately against and enthusiastically for using pie charts. They are the simplest to understand and easiest to misrepresent.

The 3D pie chart trompe l’oeil

Just by rotating a 3D Pie Chart it is easy to create an illusion that deceives the eye. Shown with and without labels.

Pie Charts

I use 2D pie charts where appropriate.

However, pie charts have a number of problems. Pie charts don’t work well for more than five to six pies, or when the pies are too small in comparison with other pies in the chart.

Pie charts don’t work well for charts with small pies.

Doughnut charts can pack more information, and bar graphs, line graphs, and dot plots are other alternatives to pie charts.

Simple 2D Bar Chart

A simple bar chart takes much less room and is less prone to misrepresentation.

Simple 2D Bar Chart

It is still hard to visualize or label smaller data points.

Interactive Bar Chart

The Interactive Bar Chart is inspired by the Progressive bar graph¹ and the Progressive column graph¹, also known as the Stepped bar graph or the Step-by-step bar graph. A Gantt Chart is an example of a Step-by-step bar graph.

Progressive bar graph
Progressive bar graph, continued
Progressive column graph

Interactive Bar Chart

An Interactive Bar Chart uses very little space, is intuitive, and interactive. It works well for touch displays and can be programmed to display details when hovering in the collapsed state when used on a desktop.

A collapsed Interactive Bar Chart

Upon expanding, the details are shown. Note, even the tiniest of bars is correctly displayed.

An expanded Interactive Bar Chart


The Interactive Bar Chart is easy to compare with other charts and is widely used in NPS comparison charts.

Comparisons of Interactive Bar Charts

Here is an infographic that uses a stacked bar for comparing statements from presidential candidates via NY Times.



Interactive Bar Charts work for touch and desktop interfaces are easy to compare, take minimal space, are easy to understand and allow even a number of small values to be displayed. They work as a great alternative to pie charts.

Interactive Bar Charts


  1. Information Graphics — a Comprehensive Illustrated Reference
    Visual Tools for Analyzing, Managing, and Communicating
    Robert L. Harris, Oxford Press.


  1. Published July 22, 2017
  2. Updated on August 6, 2017, to add a reference to Progressive Bar/Column Charts.