31 January 2022

Visualizing time series

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How to pick the right visualization for time series

Every Friday at Bitmetric we’re posting a new Qlik certification practice question to our LinkedIn company page. Last Friday we asked the following Qlik Business Analyst certification practice question about visualizing time series:

A Business Analyst wants to visualizae the relation between revenue and margin across time periods. Which visualization is most suited for this purpose?

The answers you gave to this question were quite varied, with each answer getting at least one mention. While in real life there is often room for nuance, in the context of Qlik certifications there is typically only one answer:

The correct answer is A: Line Chart

We’ll go more in-depth on time-series visualization in a future post, where we’ll also add some nuance and will discuss things such as discrete and continuous data as well as categoricalordinal and interval variables. For now, just remember, whenever a time-series is mentioned on a Qlik certification question, 99% of the time the answer will be the line chart, or variants such as the area chart or combo chart.

Line charts for time series: 99% of the time, it works every time!

So, let’s see what the result looks like:

Example of a line chart to visualize time series.

Compare this to the other options:

Other, and in our opinion worse, ways to visualize a time series.
  • Option B, the bar chart, gives a pretty good view of the data, but as the individual bars are not connected it’s harder to compare values between months. Compare for example the period May – July. In the line chart the ‘dip’ in June is much easier to spot (even when adjusted to the same vertical height).
  • Option C, the scatter plot, is great for showing that Revenue and Margin are positively associated, but is useless for showing the trend across time periods.
  • Option D, the table, is great source of information if you want to make a better visualization based on this data, but gives us the least immediate insight.

That’s it for this week, see you next Friday?

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