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This depends on your data. How many dimensions do you need to show/compare? What type of measure(s) are you visualizing (e.g. currency, %, counts, etc.)?
Depending on the above, sometimes a bar chart can visually allow the user to easily compare the dimensions and "rank" them against each other especially if you sort on your measure. It's not that you should never use a pie chart but more so, how can I visually represent this data so my user(s) can consume it in a matter of seconds. In a lot of cases, this is not as easy as you think in a pie chart.
We also briefly discussed donut charts in the THUG but they are just two pie charts on a dual axis.
If you can post an example, I can provide more detailed suggestions.
Thanks, Robert! This is a great article and gave a lot of great examples. Appreciate it.
Hi Jessica - Pie charts are commonly used because they're universally understood. It tends to be the first type of chart people learn about in elemtary school because it's easily relatable to its namesake - the "pie", which is usually cut into slices. They're not necessarily a bad option. I've had customers insist on them. They're just not typically the best option.
Generally speaking, a bar chart is a better alternative to a pie chart because you can easily and precisely see the difference in the length of each bar. In a pie chart, the tiny little slivers tend to get lost or disappear, while in a bar chart they are always visible (even if null, unless you filter them out). Bars give you additional options in Tableau like sizing the width of the bars by a metric. Dual axis bars work very well for comparisons, while dual axis pies tend to look like a mess. You can also sort the bars from least to greatest value (or vise-versa), which makes it even more powerful in a dynamic reporting environment.
One thing I've seen a lot of lately is the donut chart, which is basically a pie chart with a large circular mark in the middle, giving the whole thing the appearance of a donut. People usually place a summary metric in the donut hole. In utility, it's probably only marginally better than a pie chart, but it looks cooler and adds a little "wow" factor to your viz. It's not a native chart type in Tableau, but there's a little trick to creating them which would make for a great THUG demo (hint, hint).
One use of pies I've seen quite a bit recently and I think works well, is pies on a map (in Tableau symbol map, change your mark type to pie), but this only works well if your pies have 2 or 3 slices since the marks tend to be small.
A little long-winded perhaps, but that's my 2 cents on pies. Hope that helps.