datylon-dot-plot-icon

Dot plot

A dot plot shows one or more quantitative values per category by plotting one or more dots per category on a numerical (or date-time) axis. A dot plot with only one value per category makes a comparison between those categories very easy. When the dot plot has multiple values per category, you can also compare within the categories. This results in a chart type that packs a lot of information in a small space.

Since the dots communicate information via their position on the axis, and relatively via their position towards each other, the start- and end-point of the axis should be based on the minimum and maximum values in the data. There is no need to start the axis at zero. 

By adding a connector between the dots, you can add an extra dimension to an already information-dense chart: The connector adds a focus on the delta between two values or the range between a minimum and maximum value.

datylon-chart-library-dot-plot-example

Variations on a dot plot

The charts below are variations on a dot plot. To learn how to make them with Datylon, check out the dot plot user documentation in the Datylon Help Center.
Datylon chart library: use a categorial scatter plot as a variation on a dot plot
Datylon chart library: use a categorial scatter plot as a variation on a dot plot

Categorical scatter plot

A categorical scatter plot is very similar to a dot plot. The only difference can lie in the way the data is handled: In a categorical scatterplot, the data is mostly provided in a flat table, in a dot plot, the data is already pivoted and split into series.

Datylon chart library: use a lollipop as a variation on a dot plot
Datylon chart library: use a lollipop as a variation on a dot plot

Lollipop

A lollipop chart is like a marriage between a bar chart and a dot plot. It’s closely related to a bar chart since the stick needs to start at zero and the dot is added on top. A lollipop chart is often used to avoid a moiré effect when there are a lot of categories visualized.

Datylon chart library: use a dumbbell as a variation on a dot plot
Datylon chart library: use a dumbbell as a variation on a dot plot

Dumbbell

A dumbbell chart is a dot plot with two connected values per category. It is great when you want to emphasize the delta between the two values. When you add arrowheads instead of dots, we speak of an arrow chart, when you don’t add marks at all, and just leave the connector, we have a range chart.

Datylon chart library: use a beeswarm as a variation on a dot plot
Datylon chart library: use a beeswarm as a variation on a dot plot

Beeswarm

A beeswarm chart is like a dot plot with “a lot” of values per category. These values are each represented by one dot, and the swarm of dots represents the distribution found in the data. Instead of packing them in bins, the dots are scattered around each other.

Alternatives for a dot plot

Substitute your dot plot with any of the charts below when you want a visual alternative that still allows you to compare values within and between categories.
Datylon chart library: use a multi-series bar chart as an alternative for a dot plot
Datylon chart library: use a multi-series bar chart as an alternative for a dot plot

(multi-series) Bar chart

The most simple alternative to a dot plot is a bar chart. Instead of using relative position on the numerical axis, the bar chart uses the length of the bar to communicate the value. To replace multi-series dot plots, one can choose between a stacked or a grouped bar chart. This makes comparison within and between categories possible.

Datylon chart library: use a slope chart as an alternative for a dot plot
Datylon chart library: use a slope chart as an alternative for a dot plot

Slope chart

A slope chart is a perfect alternative for a dumbbell chart. It emphasizes the evolution between two values by using the angle of the slope to communicate the difference.

Datylon chart library: use a range chart as an alternative for a dot plot
Datylon chart library: use a range chart as an alternative for a dot plot

Range chart

A range chart can be used as an alternative for a two- or multi-series dot plot if it is more important to focus on the delta between two points or the range between the minimum and maximum value of multiple points.

Pro tips for designing a dot plot

Learn how to improve the readability and visual appeal of your dot plot.
Add gridlines to your dot plot to improve readability

Add gridlines

Gridlines are what turns a set of barbells into an actual chart with a proper context.

Read more
Use coloring to add a new dimension to your dot plot

Coloring options

A dot plot can be a pretty simple chart. Its minimum pack is categorical and numerical dimensions and a fixed size mark. Color is the thing that adds the edge to this chart. It might be used to place simple accents, but it can also add a new dimension: numerical, categorical, or even time.

Read more
Sort the categories in the data in various ways in your dot plot

Sorting

Sort the categories in the data. Either based on the highest value, the lowest value, or the delta.

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Combine a dot plot with another chart to show more context

Combine with other charts

Combining a dot plot with another chart is a perfect choice for showing more context which may otherwise not be apparent.

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Add data labels to your dot plot to improve readability

Add labels

Using data labels instead of numerical axis makes the chart cleaner and gives full information about dot values.

Read more

Are you ready to make your own dot plot with Datylon? 

Create a Datylon account and get started for free online or download a Datylon for Illustrator plug-in with a 14-day trial. Connect with a Datylon expert for a free demo session.

Dot plot inspiration

Scroll and click on the images below to find inspiration samples of dot plots. With your Datylon account, you can use these designs, customize them and update them with new data.