Last week we started  a chart “fix-it” series where we take a chart in dire need of help and then fix it.  This is something that we do in our presentation workshops, to synthesize all of the design lessons from the day.  Our last chart fixed  a “Success Cycle” that wasn’t depicting it’s key message.

Today’s chart is an analysis of one of the most used chart types, the pie chart.  Pie charts and stacked 100% column charts should be used to show all of the parts of a whole, or a percentage.  Another way to think of it is that a pie chart shows who has what portion of the pie.

All conceptual and quantitative charts should be designed to illustrated your core messages.  This helps you bring your audience to the conclusions you want them to make.

This week’s slide is from, now known as  They do excellent research, but in this case, maybe could have presented it a little better.  The title of this slide is “Expert Opinion: Relative Importance of Algo Components in Google.”  The keywords in this message are “relative importance,” which implies a ranking.  This chart was designed to the key words of “components,” which would make this chart perfect if there wasn’t a ranking that needed to be seen.

Here’s the original:



As you can see, it’s not easily scannable in regards to the rankings of these components, as the term “relative importance” is asking for.  It’s also bordering on too many pieces of the pie, anymore than this and the labels wouldn’t be legible.  Coloring the labels to match the different pieces is great though, there is no doubt around which piece links to which label.  Be careful for some audiences, though; not everyone likes to see so many colors on a page and can see it as cartoonish.  Their audience is techy, which tends to expect fun designs.

Below is my alternative:


Here the Algo Components are ranked from most to least.  The higher ranked pieces are brighter than the lower pieces, which isn’t particularly necessary for this slide with it’s current messaging.  However, this coloring could be useful when discussing what components should be focused on for action purposes.  I also colored it this way to illustrate how fewer colors can make the page look cleaner.  This type of coloring is frequently expected in more conservative industries like finance.  Also note the alternative case tense between the two segments of the title.  I put the “EXPERT OPINION” in all capitals to differentiate it from the key message, which is the “Relative Importance of Algo Components in Google.”  Text was switched to dark grey so it’s softer on the reader’s eye, which is something that more design savvy audience’s will expect.

We will have another Before/After next week.  If you’ve got a chart you’d like improved for this series, email it to