Customizing your arrow plot

After importing the data for your arrow plot, you can refine, annotate and design your arrow plot in step 3: Visualize. In this tutorial, we'll walk you through all these steps to create the following chart:



In any tab of step 3: Visualize, you can click, hold, and drag the arrow in the lower right corner to scale the chart window or manually determine the dimension of the chart by entering values in the boxes below the chart ("Resize to"). We recommend to do this step first, but you can change the size of your chart at any point.

Customizing the axes

In the "Refine" tab, we see three panels. The first panel lets us customize your axes. Here we can choose which element in your chart shows which data:

  • Labels: Select the column header that contains labels for each row. These labels are in your category-column. We'll choose the column "Partei" for our labels.
  • Groups: You can upload an extra column to put categories into extra group. In our case, we could have a column that indicates if our voters are right-wing or left-wing. Each row in this column would have either the text "right-wing" or "left-wing". If we chose that column as our "Groups", the chart would make a separation between right-wing and left-wing parties.
  • Range start: Select the column header that contains the value of your earlier time point. In our case, we choose the column "2009". 
  • Range end: Select the column header that contains the value of your later time point. In our case, we choose the column "2013". 
  • Color: You can upload an extra column to indicate colors. That works similarly to the "Groups" option that I explained above. We could choose the column with the "left-wing"/"right-wing" text for this Color option. Then all right-wing parties had another color than all left-wing parties (we can customize these colors later in the "Appearance" panel)

For our chart, the panel looks like this at the end: 

Sorting, grid

In this panel, we have three important decisions to make:

  1. The order of our rows: How should the lines and labels be sorted? You can keep the order of your spreadsheet, or you can sort the lines by the values of the start date (2009, in our case), by end date (2013), by the difference between the start and end date or by the percentage point change between the start and the end date. 
  2. The extent of your x-axis: Datawrapper chooses the extent of your x-axis based on the minimum and maximum value of your whole data. If you'd like to change the default extent, you can do that here. As opposed to bar charts, you can have a minimum value that's greater than zero.
  3. If you want different grid lines: Your charts will have grid lines without touching that option – but if you want to change the default, you can do that here. Type in the numbers on which you want to see gridlines. E.g., typing in the two numbers "0, 20" will result in two gridlines on the entire x-axis: One at zero, the other one at 20. 

For our chart, the panel looks like this at the end: 


In the third and last panel in the tab "Refine", we can choose colors for our arrows. We can choose one color for all our arrows (click on "Base color" to change the default color). When we click on "customize colors...", we can choose individual colors for each arrow. In our chart, we do that to give each arrow the color of the party it represents:

In this panel, we can also decide if our chart should have a color key or not. If we click on the text field next to a color, we can also change the description. Our colors are intuitive for our German audience, so we decide against a color key altogether.



Describe chart

If you've created a Datawrapper chart or map before, you already know this feature. Here we can give your chart a title, a description, add notes and a source:

  • We recommend using the title to tell your readers the most interesting aspect about this chart – the one key statement that you want to show on this chart, e.g. "Unemployment highest in the south"
  • The description should have as much information about the data as possible: What do we see exactly? E.g. "Unemployment rates in % in all US states, 2016"
  • Think of notes as footnotes, where we want to mention any abnormalities about your data. E.g. "California unemployment rates from Jan and Feb 2016 not included in the calculation."
  • The source name will give our readers the information how trustworthy our data is. Does it come from a government institution or another trustworthy organization? The source URL lets our reader dig deeper and have a look at the underlying data themselves. Both, source name and source URL, should be filled out on every map or chart to increase transparency. E.g. US Bureau of Labour Statistics, August 2017


In the 2nd panel in the "Annotate" tab, we can make three kinds of decisions about labels:

  1. Bar label alignment: Should the labels (the names of your categories left of the actual lines) be left-aligned or right-aligned? Left-aligned is the default, but depending on the labels, right-aligned could be more readable.
  2. Number format: Our values might be percentages and we want to add a percentage sign; or our values are very high numbers (e.g. 3844929) and we want to shorten them (e.g. to 3.8m). With this option, we can make our data more readable. 
  3. Label values: Here we can decide if you want values to be displayed next to the arrows, and which ones you want to display. You can choose to display the values from your columns with "start", "end" or "both". Datawrapper can calculate the difference or the change in percentage point between the two values on each line. 



In this last step, we can select a preset layout, output locale and enable social sharing functions to share your work with others. 

  • Users of the Free plan have two options for layout: One with and one without the "Get the data" link
  • Users of the Datawrapper Custom and Enterprise plan have the freedom to select either between a custom layout or the default Datawrapper layout



After we worked through the four tabs of step 3: Visualize, we can now proceed to step 4: Publish & Embed. The best way to use a Datawrapper chart is by embedding it directly on your website. To do that, click the big blue button that says " Publish chart". Then, copy & paste the embed code snippet into your website or CMS. You can also download your chart as a PNG or PDF. The PNG option is something that is available to all Datawrapper users regardless of their subscription plan while the PDF option is available only to users of the Custom and Enterprise plan. Click here for more information about the pricing plans that Datawrapper offers.

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