Of all the visuals in Excel, why choose a line chart? Plenty of other charts show the same information, so why not use them?
Here are a few significant advantages of line graphs:
1. They show things over time very well.
Bar charts and column charts can show things over time, but it’s not intuitively clear that the categories represent different temporal slices. On a line graph, people will see this very quickly.
There are other good uses for line charts, but showing a value over time is one of the best.
2. They make it easy to see multiple sets of data.
Clustered and stacked charts let you show a lot of data in a small space, but they can be difficult to read. Using different-colored lines in a line graph is much clearer.
You can even show interactions between values with this chart, which is great for complicated datasets.
3. It’s easy to read.
Line charts are simple. In fact, in their most basic form, they only contain one thing: a line. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t understand the information you present in a line chart.
Almost everyone is very familiar with these graphs, and that’s a big advantage over more complicated options.
4. Additional information is easy to see.
Error bars, data labels, trend lines, and other useful statistical notations are very clear on line graphs. They can be represented on other types of charts, but it’s easy for them to become obscured.
Line charts solve that problem by leaving a lot of white space for you to work with.
However, there are a few cases in which you might not want to use a line graph.
For example, they’re not very good at showing proportions. A stacked column chart or a pie chart would be better there.
And while they’re good at showing change over time, a timeline might be better represented by a Gantt chart.