Chart to success: selective showcase

Curtis West

Curtis West

Partner at Vaxa Analytics.

We live in a time when data is king. Data is everywhere – and it’s tempting to believe that,  the more data we have, the more accurate our decisions will be. But regardless of the data, even the most simple graphs can easily mislead you. Even when using the best tools available, your conclusions may not be as sound as they seem if you can’t spot some fundamental issues. 

In this series, we’ll be taking bite-sized looks at some of the most common data analysis mistakes made when building and interpreting graphs. 

Selective showcase

Earlier in our Chart to Success series, we showed how your perception of a situation can change based on the axis scaling. In much the same way, the selection of *which* data to show can greatly influence your understanding of a situation.

Looking at this graph, you’re probably thinking that we’re on a roll! But when we zoom out, the story changes dramatically.

It’s always important to consider the context in which your data sits. You need to understand whether you are being shown the whole picture, or just something that’s convenient for the conversation at hand.


Always consider if you’re viewing all the data available to you, or if it may have been cherry-picked.

If more data isn’t available in your dataset, consider if context could be added by integrating third-party data sources. For example, if viewing traffic to your new website, you could compare seasonal traffic trends in your industry and gain a stronger understanding of your position.

If you’re using graphs to make data-driven decisions, it’s important that they are accurate and reliable. Graphs can be misleading if the graph type, colours or scales are poorly chosen, so look out for these details before making a decision.

There is no such thing as a “perfect” graph – every graph has its limitations! However, there are many ways in which we can improve our understanding of any given dataset by carefully considering all aspects of the analytical process.

Vaxa Analytics offers free analytics audits to help elevate your business intelligence with insights from experienced professionals who understand what makes a good analysis tick.

Contact us today for more information on how we can work together to create data-driven, actionable insights to help your business succeed.

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