When Would You Use a Bubble Chart?

Bubble Charts
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By Leo

A bubble chart is an effective tool to represent data in a comprehensive, engaging, and straightforward manner. It helps you visualize datasets and makes it easy to understand complex data patterns. In business, these visuals can play a crucial role in decision-making, strategy planning, and trend analysis. Keep reading to learn more about when you would use a bubble chart.

Understanding What a Bubble Chart Is

A bubble chart is a variant of the scatterplot. Unlike other charts, it can showcase information along three axes—the X and Y coordinates plus a third dimension represented by the size of bubbles. The larger the bubble, the greater the third variable it represents.

This chart type is particularly useful when you have three data series and each of them contains a set of values. The positions of bubbles can indicate correlations or lack thereof, while their sizes can exhibit the underlying data’s magnitude.

As a bubble chart example, consider a scenario where a shoe company wants to analyze the correlation between advertising expenditure, sales revenue, and profit margin. A bubble chart is the best to display all three data series on a single chart.

Moreover, bubble charts can be an excellent choice to illustrate data with a wide range of values. They enable the presentation of data that are not related proportionally in a visually straightforward and engaging manner.

Exploring the Components of Bubble Charts

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There are three main components in a bubble chart: the x-axis, the y-axis, and the bubble size. Each of these components represents a data series. The x and y axes portray two quantitative data sets, while the bubble size embodies a third data series or variable.

The x and y axes are straightforward and similar to other charts with horizontal and vertical axes. For instance, the x-axis might show the advertising expenditure while the y-axis showcases the sales revenue in the shoe company example above.

What sets bubble charts apart is the third dimension. This third variable is displayed by the size of the bubbles. Bigger bubbles indicate higher values of the third series. Back to our shoe company example, a larger bubble could signify a higher profit.

Another vital but optional component of a bubble chart is the color. Bubble colors can be used to demonstrate another layer of data or to categorize the bubbles for easier interpretation. The color could represent the different shoe brands in our previous example.

Scenarios to Use Bubble Charts

Business professional using laptop creating a bubble chart example to demonstrate data


Bubble charts work best in scenarios where you aim to depict the relationship between three data series. They are also incredibly useful to demonstrate data that span a wide range of values. They encompass large and small values alike and provide a visually intuitive comparison of these values.

For instance, if a business wants to showcase the correlation between its marketing investment, website visits, and lead generation, a bubble chart can efficiently illustrate this. It can also effectively represent demographic data like total population, GDP per capita, and average life expectancy by countries.

Moreover, bubble charts are an excellent choice when the data sets include negative numbers, fractions, or decimals, providing a clear visual representation. They offer a lot more flexibility than other chart forms and give the viewer a holistic picture at a glance.

However, they might not be the best choice for presenting simple data patterns that involve only two variables or for situations where precise data points’ values are required.

Altogether, bubble charts are highly valuable data visualization tools that can impart a wealth of information in a visually intuitive manner. They shine in scenarios where depicting relationships between three data series is essential. However, it is crucial to know when to utilize a bubble chart and how to effectively construct one for maximum impact.