How to create a

Bullet Bar.

Minimal space, easy comparison.



What is a Bullet Bar?

In short: Two bars placed on top of each other.


Create a Bullet Bar in Datawrapper

Step-by-step, including sample data


How to control the appearance

Available features in Datawrapper


We are adding another visualization option in Datawrapper, based on the new bar chart module we launched in January 2016. 

We call it the "bullet bar". This chart is based on the "bullet graph", invented and specified by Stephen Few in 2005. The intention was to replace the popular, but often problematic gauges in dashboards. 

Quote:  "When I designed the bullet graph back in 2005, I did it to solve a particular problem related to dashboard displays. The graphical widgets that software vendors were providing to display single measures, such as year-to-date sales revenue, consisted mostly of circular gauges and meters, which suffered from several problems. Most of them conveyed too little information, did so unclearly, and wasted a great deal of space on the screen. The bullet graph was my alternative, which was designed to convey a rich story clearly in little space." (Source: Perceptual Edge)

Bullet Bar

The Datawrapper implementation does not have all features, which is why we have chosen "bullet bar" as the current name. Let us show you how to create a bullet bar. 

The sample data we use is the comparison between the original budget and the final budget to build the Channel tunnel. The tunnel connects France and UK and is 50,5 kilometers long and opened to in 1994. 

[["Project","Original budget","Final Cost"],["The Channel Tunnel","14559198500","25655180000"]]

Below then is the chart - the outer (light blue) bar showing the original budget, the inner (dark blue) bar showing the final costs. 

Step-by-step: How to create a bullet bar

Step 1: Choose "Bullet bars" as the visualization

Step 2: Features in tab "Refine" to change appearance

In "Labeling" you can define the number format and set custom grid lines. Generally Datawrapper will create the gridline automatically, based on your data. One note: If the data you imported into Datawrapper consists for very large numbers you need to use these numbers (billions) to get to a custom gridline (1.000.0000.000) - the "Custom grid lines" field will currently not do the math automatically. 

In "Appearance" you can customize the colors used in the bullet bar. Generally the "outer color" should be lighter than the "inner color" - such as light blue to dark blue or light grey to black.

Thicker bars can be used if you only have few values or just one bullet bar.

Below you can see the bullet bar with colors changed to light grey (outer) and black (inner bar). 

Multiple bars

Of course you can add more data, to compare a number of values. In our example we compare the originally planned costs vs. the real costs of big building projects. 

Disclaimer: The current implementation lacks some of the advanced options for the original bullet graph. We will be looking into additional options as specified by the original concept in the coming months. 

The full design specification of "bullet graphs" by Stephen Few can be found here: We will be working on implementing missing elements in the next development sprints. 

The blog of Stephen Few is worth reading for discussions on how to achieve high chart quality and what to avoid: Perceptual Edge 

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