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Excel Bubble Charts

Excel’s bubble chart function allows users to visualise the relationship between multiple data values in a simple way.

As with scatter graphs, bubble charts are used to plot a set of values on both horizontal (x) and vertical (y) axes; however, there is also an extra dimension (z) which is represented in the size of each bubble. That makes this type of chart an ideal option for those looking to present three data series, each containing a separate set of values, at the same time.

Due to the fact that bubble charts are designed to show more complex relationships between data values compared with a simple scatter graph, they can often prove to be a challenge for those who do not have a solid knowledge of Excel functions.

How Excel bubble charts can optimise processes

There are countless scenarios in which businesses opt for bubble charts to show the relationship between multiple data values clearly and accurately. One of the most common is when presenting financial data. In a standard financial modelling project, for instance, you may need to plot the number of products (x), a sales estimate (y) and the projected return on investment (size of bubble).

Bubble charts tend to display a higher level of information at once, so they aren’t always as immediately easy to understand compared to a two-dimensional graph. The most effective bubble charts are accompanied by a clear explanation of what is being shown, particularly when delivering insights as part of a company report.

Top tip: Save yourself some time by not using bubble charts if you only need to display two data series; a trusty scatter graph will do just fine.

How to create a bubble chart in Excel

We’ve put together this simple step-by-step walkthrough for Excel users who are looking to create a basic bubble chart from scratch.

1. Arrange your data

First, organise your selected data values in rows or columns within an Excel spreadsheet. The x values should be in the first row or column, the y values in the second and z values (bubble size) in the third.

2. Select data and navigate to “Insert Bubble Chart”

Highlight the data you want to include in the bubble chart (without any column headings) then insert a bubble chart from the Excel menu – Insert > Charts > Scatter Graphs > Bubble Chart.

3. Choose your preferred design

Click into the chart area of the chart to display Chart Tools. From there, navigate to the Design tab and select the style you would like to use.

4. Format the chart accordingly

Excel offers a range of customisable options that afford users control over the size, shape height and shape width of data points within the bubble chart, as well as gridlines and additional data labels. Once you are happy with your selections and axes titles, click Enter to insert the bubble chart.

5. Apply further formatting effects as required

From the Format tab in the Excel menu, click an individual chart element or select the current selection group to edit different shapes, styles and effects. It is also possible to include specific theme colours that are different from your spreadsheet’s default theme.

Looking for professional Excel support?

The task of using bubble charts to optimise business process and present clear data insights isn’t always a walk in the park. If you require additional support with more complex graphs and data visualisation techniques then it’s worth getting in touch with an experienced Excel professional rather than going it alone.

Are bubble charts a part of an Excel project you have? Get in touch with our team of expert Excel consultants today on 0161 883 2655.

Updated on May 23, 2018

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