Properly presenting data to your audience is vitally important for building effective JavaScript charts, graphs, and dashboards. In “Save the Pies for Dessert,” Stephen Few kindly, but effectively questions why pie charts are included in data visualization tools. And after reading our synthesis of his ideas, you may question their place in your dataviz projects, as well.

Few begins by explaining why people rely on pie charts. His theory is that people assume pie charts are easy to read.

basic pie chart

Do I Even Need a Chart?

Even with a simple data set, a chart can be helpful:

  • Humans usually process images faster than text
  • According to Few, “Graphs are useful when a picture of the data makes meaningful relationships visible (patterns, trends, and exceptions) that could not be easily discerned from a table of the same data.”
    It’s not a big jump to assume that people use pie charts now almost as a default.

Going with Pie Charts

We have realized the value of charts, and have become very familiar with the pie chart type, through word processing software and other tools.

However, human eyes are much better at comparing differences in line length, than 2D areas and angles. This means bar and line graphs are easier for us homo sapiens to process.

One exception to this are pie charts with two slices, because of the part-to-whole relationship is baked in (pun intended). This is especially easy to judge when slices are a certain size. According to Few, those slices are at:

  • 0%
  • 25%
  • 50%
  • 75%
  • 100%
    It’s not that pie charts are evil. It is just that experts have shown that other visualizations are more effective in communicating data quickly and accurately. In fact, Few suggests a table would be the best way to present the type of data shown in the pie chart above.

3D Charts

His case becomes stronger when he examines the use of 3D pie charts.

3D pie chart viewed at different angles is difficult to read

The angle at which the pie is presented can skew how users perceive the slices.

But what if you love 3D pie charts? What if your BOSS loves 3D pie charts? ZingChart still has you covered when it comes to JavaScript charting. We not only still provide the 3D pie chart type, we have 3D:

  • Bar Charts
  • Horizontal bar charts
  • Stacked bar charts
  • Bubble charts
  • Segmented line charts
  • Spline line charts
  • Stepped line charts
  • Stacked line charts
  • Area charts
    ZingChart also offers the ability to control the angle of your third dimension if you absolutely must use it. We have a demo of a 3D Tool Bar plugin you can try out, as well.

ZingChart 3D tool bar

This demo will give you an idea of how much control you can have over your 3D data visualizations in ZingChart. When you absolutely, positively, MUST use 3D :-)

How do you feel about pie charts and 3D charts? Sound off in the comments below.