After listening to The Right Chart, I figure this is a great place to ask my question. I need a chart for a report, not for a presentation, so the amount of detail it needs to convey isn't limited to what can be absorbed from a projector in half a second.

That said, I want a chart that can quickly and simply convey what needs to be conveyed.

Normally I'm good at this -- I design all our customer reporting and recieve rave reviews -- but this internal one has me stumped.

We're a Widget Subscription company. You subscribe to our service and get a number of widgets each month.

  • Baseline: We sold 100,000 WidgetOnes last month.
  • New Sales: We got 2 brand-new customers this month and sold them another 2000 WidgetOnes.
  • Increased Sales: Some of our existing customers increased their subscription and we sold them another 2000 WidgetOnes
  • Cross Sell: Some of our WidgetTwo customers decided they'd like to get WidgetOne as well and so we sold another 2000 WidgetOnes to them
  • Lost Customers: Some of our customers left us for a competitor so we lost 1000 WidgetOne sales
  • Decreased Sales: Some of our existing customers don't need as many this month so we lost another 1000 WidgetOne sales
  • Product Dropped: Finally, some of our customers decided WidgetOne wasn't for them, but they'd keep their WidgetTwo subscription. Another 1000 lost here.

All that means that this month we have sold 100,000 + 2000 + 2000 + 2000 - 1000 - 1000 - 1000 = 103,000 WidgetOnes this month.

How do I indicate this on a chart?

A huge aim here is to present a chart that immediately-at-a-glance shows the start of the month and the end of the month. But that when you look closer, there's more detail available.

I considered some sort of column chart with increases above the X-axis and decreases below it, but that doesn't fullfill the main goal as it wont indicate the 'baseline' or nett change very well.

A stacked column does this perfectly ... if there's only ever increases.

Any and all suggestions gratefully received.


emonrad's picture
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How about a waterfall chart?  They're a column chart, but only the incremental change in each step is shown, positive or negative.  Here's a link to a wikipedia article on them that has a couple examples:


RickMeasham's picture

G'day Eric,

That's perfect. Thanks! The examples in the 'Applications of Waterfall Chart' are almost exactly what I'm doing!

I knew there had to be a chart for it .. and I knew someone at MT would know what to use.

Rick Measham

Geek Herding

mmann's picture
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Eric's waterfall chart is nice! 

When I've tried to capture this concept in the past I've used a parfait chart (stacked area chart).