A Step-by-Step Guide to Building an Excel Graph [Quick Tip]

    by Sara Davidson

    Date

    May 3, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    how-to-make-excel-graphBuilding graphs is part of most people's jobs -- they're the best way to present information in a clear, easily digestible manner that can then serve to influence the decision-making process within an organization. But there are some people out there that get a little bit intimidated by the prospect of poking around in Excel. I, however, adore the thing (I work in Marketing Ops, so it's pretty much a requirement).

    So I thought I'd share some step-by-step instructions for anyone out there that cringes at the thought of sorting a spreadsheet full of data into a chart that actually, you know, means something. Here are the simple steps you need to build a graph in Excel.

    Step 1: Get your data into Excel.

    First, you need to input your data into Excel. This is the easy part! You may have exported the data from elsewhere, like a piece of marketing software or a survey tool. Or, you might be inputting it manually.

    In the example below, in Column A, I have a list of the responses to the question “Did inbound marketing demonstrate ROI?”, and in Columns B,C, and D, I have the responses to the question “Does your company have a formal sales-marketing agreement?”. For example, Column C, Row 2 illustrates that 49% of people who have an SLA also say that inbound marketing demonstrated ROI.

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    Step 2: Choose a type of graph to create.

    You have plenty of choices for charts and graphs to create. This data will look best in a bar graph, so let's pursue making that one. To make a bar graph, highlight the data and include the titles of the X and Y axis. Go to the ‘Insert’ tab, click ‘Charts,’ click ‘Column,’ and choose the graph you wish (in this example I will be picking the first 2-D Column choice -- just because I prefer it over the 3-D look).

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    Step 3: Switch axes, if necessary.

    If you want to switch what appears on the X and Y axis, right click on the bar graph, click ‘Select Data,’ and click ‘Switch Row/Column.’

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    Step 4: Adjust your labels and legends, if desired.

    To change the layout of the labeling and legend, click on the bar graph, then click the ‘Layout’ tab. Here you can choose what layout you prefer for the chart title, axis titles, and legend.

    In my example, I clicked on ‘Chart Title,’ and selected ‘Above Chart.’ To format the X axis title, I clicked on ‘Axis Titles’, clicked ‘Primary Horizontal Axis Title’, and clicked ‘Title Below Axis.’ To format the Y axis title, I clicked on ‘Axis Titles,’ clicked 'Primary Vertical Axis Title,’ and chose ‘Rotated Title.’ To change the placement of the legend, click ‘Legend’ on the ‘Layout’ tab and choose your preferred location.

    finalgraphmay4blogstep4

    Step 5: Change the Y axis measurement options, if desired.

    To change the type of measurement shown on the Y axis, right click on the Y axis percentages, and click ‘Format Axis.’ Here you can decide if you want to display units located on the Axis Options tab, or if you want to change whether the Y axis shows percentages to 2 decimal places or to 0 decimal places.

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    The resulting graph would be changed to look like this:

    finalblogmay4step5p3

    Step 6: Reorder data, if desired.

    To sort the data so that the software choices appear in descending popularity order, click on the column that is most important to you (in this case I picked column B), click on the ‘Data’ tab, and click ‘Filter.’ Then go back to Column B and click the down arrow and click ‘Sort Largest to Smallest.’

    finalblogmay4step7p1

    If you click on the downward arrows located at B1 and C1, you can choose to sort based on smallest to largest or largest to smallest, depending on your preference. Here, I sorted largest to smallest on B1.

    finalblogmay4step7p2-1

    Pretty easy, right? What other Excel functions have you always wanted help with?

    Image credit: CraigMoulding

                                         

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