How to create an area chart

An area chart is is an option if you want to show a change over time without neglecting proportions of quantitative values. Think about it as a combination of a line chart (change over time) and a column chart (distributions & comparisons). 

A stacked area chart (as pictured below) is particularly helpful when you want to show how different categories have changed over time while also showing how these categories relate to the whole. An area chart is often used to show how market shares have changes over time.

This guide will show you how to create your first area chart with Datawrapper. This chart type is feature rich and fully responsive, meaning they will adapt to different screen sizes. In this particular example we take a closer look at worldwide music market revenues and how digital sales have become the biggest market share.

1. Preparing and importing the data

This dataset is used for the chart above. The header row contains descriptive labels that define the major categories (Year) and categorical dimensions (Physical, Digital, Performance rights, and Synchronisation). 

While Datawrapper is quite good at detecting the format of input you should try to make sure in Excel that the formats are all corrected. A good visual indicator - depending on the version of Excel you use and the language settings is whether the values are aligned on the left or the right of the cells. If they are aligned left, they are understood as text. If they are aligned right, they are detected as numbers.

Year Physical Digital Perfomance rights Synchronisation
2005 17.9 1.1 0.9 0
2006 16.3 2.1 1 0
2007 14.1 2.9 1.2 0
2008 11.9 3.7 1.3 0
2009 10.4 4.1 1.3 0
2010 8.9 4.3 1.4 0.3
2011 8.2 4.9 1.4 0.3
2012 7.6 5.4 1.6 0.3
2013 6.8 5.7 1.7 0.3
2014 6.1 6 1.9 0.3
2015 5.8 6.6 2 0.4
2016 5.4 7.8 2.2 0.4

Source:   IFPI

Your table should be set up as follow:

  • One header row containing labels for each column/category
  • One column with temporal measures that will define the x-axis
  • Further columns must contain values of the same measures. The magnitude of these values will define the y-axis

Once your dataset looks like this, you can copy it into Datawrapper and click "Upload and continue".

2. Check & Describe

By using the number output locale all the numbers in the columns starting with B and onward are now aligned right, which means they are correctly parsed as numbers. Datawrapper automatically identifies values in the first column as time values (green).

Make sure that the box " First row as lable" is ticked so that Datawrapper correctly assigns the values to the labels. Click on "Proceed" and Datawrapper will take you to the next step.

3. Visualize

The chart type to choose is the " Area chart". If you just started working with the tool note that the selection of the chart type will affect the options available in Refine, Annotate and Design. We cover these options for the area chart in a separate short tutorial found here.

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