The Bullet chart was designed by Stephen Few as an alternative to space-inefficient meters and gauges. A bullet chart is aimed at dis-playing performance data in comparison to a target measure in a scope of a qualitative range.
It consists of a single, quantitative primary measure (for example, current year-to-date revenue) and compares that to another measure or target. The primary measure is then related to defined qualitative ranges such as poor, satisfactory and good, or percentiles. The qual-itative ranges are displayed as varying intensities of usually a single hue.
Bullet charts have proven to be very useful for many different purposes ranging from financial reports to industrial dashboards to business performance benchmarks.
The charts below can be considered variations of a bullet chart. To learn how to make them with Datylon, check out the chart user documentation in the Datylon Help Center.
A bar chart (aka a bar graph) is a base for a bullet chart. However, the main difference between the two is that in bullet charts, every category has its own scale while in bar charts a scale is always shared.
Grouped bar chart
Grouped bar chart with two series can be a substitute for a bullet chart if the scale is the same for all bars. In this case, one of the bars shows a performance value, and the other shows the target measure.
Stacked bar chart
If you want to have very specific ranges you can use a stacked bar chart for showing either qualitative or quantitative ranges as an element of a complex bullet chart with a shared scale.
Alternatives to a bullet chart
Substitute your bullet chart with the charts below when you want an alternative representation of the data comparison.
If the chart scale doesn’t contain a zero, it’s best not to use a classic bullet chart. Instead, a dot can be used. Both the performance score and target measure can be presented with data marks.
An alternative option for a bullet chart with the same scale for multiple categories is the line chart. In this chart, the performance value, target value, as well as ranges, can be presented by lines.
Having the same function and essential elements as a bullet chart, this chart's drawback is the extensive use of space. But in certain cases, if there’s no lack of space, a circular gauge can be an interesting option.
Pro tips for designing a bullet chart
Learn how to improve the readability and visual appeal of your bullet chart.
It’s important to use a subtle color palette for all elements. The exception is the performance bar – it has to stand out. The subtleness of visual elements is important for all charts, but for bullet charts, it becomes more important because it has a lot of visual elements involved.
The ranges for the qualitative scale should be chosen based on values that are considered the boundary for the given indicator. If there are no such values, a scale can be divided into generic ranges, i.e. quartiles.
Scroll and click on the images below to find inspiration samples of bullet charts. With your Datylon account, you can use these designs, customize them and update them with new data. Or start designing your very own bullet chart!