Australian Flag
UK Flag
Data Visualisation Tips

Data Visualisation Tips – Bullet Chart, an alternate to Gauge Chart

Mik Panchal, Managing Consultant – Altis Sydney

Are you working on a dashboard containing Actuals vs. Budget KPIs?

This post will discuss the use of a Bullet chart as an alternative to a Gauge chart by looking at the good and not-so-good aspects of each approach.

Gauge Charts

Gauge charts look great, but how effective are they on a dashboard?

The table below lists the Top 5 traits of Gauge charts.


Universally understood (Car speedometer)

Non-linear – difficult to compare distance on a curve chart

Visually attractive

Takes up valuable space on a dashboard

Easy to implement

Too little information

Works well when comparing 2 data points, Actual vs. Budget

Cannot compare multiple Gauge charts side-by-side

Quickly grabs attention

Cannot display more than 2 values; i.e. actual vs budget vs prior period


Bullet Charts

Bullet charts are the new kids on the block (relatively new); they provide a more effective means of comparing multiple KPI’s on a dashboard. They allow multiple values for comparison on a single KPI (budget, actual, prior period), and take up less real estate. However, being relatively new they require some effort for educating users, and do not immediately stand out on a dashboard compared to a Gauge chart; so why should we use them?

Did you spot the DQ issue with the Average KPI in the above chart? Bullet charts make it easy to compare multiple KPIs on a linear scale.

The table below lists the Top 5 traits of Bullet charts.


Comparison is linear

Difficult to implement at first

Ability to relate multiple charts (KPI’s)

Requires user education – not easily understood without prior knowledge
Takes up less space on a dashboard

Difficult to get user engagement – not always visually attractive

Multiple values for comparison, i.e. actual vs budget vs prior period

Not all BI tools have Bullet charts as a default visualisation

Growing acceptance of best practice for visualisation of Actual vs. Budget on a dashboard

Takes up vertical real estate


There isn’t a single solution that fits every scenario, sometimes a user’s familiarity and acceptance of visualisation takes precedence over what is best practice for a visualisation. User education can go a long way to getting new ideas accepted, it can lead to deeper insights and a different way of analysing data; I believe the effort is worth the gains.

Want to know more?

We offer a range of courses in dataanalyticsinformation and innovation,  visit our training page to find out more.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Connect with us

If you’d like to be kept in the loop on courses, events and other related topics, simply complete your details and we’ll add you to our list.

We use cookies to improve your experience and support our mission.
Read more about it here. By using our sites, you agree to our use of cookies.