A 7-Step Guide To Creating A Bubble Chart In Excel

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

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A bubble chart allows you to use circles to present different types of information on a graph. You can use this chart to organise important data, which may help you to make more informed decisions. Learning how to create a bubble chart may help you present complex information visually in a more effective way. In this article, we explain bubble charts in Excel, discuss reasons to use them and review steps and tips that can guide you when creating your own.

What Is A Bubble Chart In Excel?

A bubble chart in Excel is a type of data visualisation graph that uses circles, or bubbles, to represent information. Typically, bubble charts allow you to share data about three or more variables. On the chart, you can arrange each bubble's size, location and colour to reveal further information about their relationships to one another. For example, larger bubbles can represent a higher number, while smaller bubbles represent lower numbers.

Related: Types Of Graphs And Charts

When To Use A Bubble Chart

Bubble charts are useful in any situation where you have variables and want to create a visual comparison so you and others can easily explore the correlations between them. They can be especially valuable in presentations, as viewers can often quickly process the information and understand the conclusions you have drawn from it. Bubble charts are useful when you are handling many types of information that relate to one topic. For example, if you are reviewing employee attendance records, sales revenue and customer growth, you might dedicate a bubble on the chart to each category of information.

Bubble charts are especially useful in sales, marketing or finance. For example, you might use a bubble chart to compare several sales strategies to see which one is the most cost-effective. In this case, you can represent each strategy using a bubble, with the size of the bubble representing the amount of profit that your workplace received by using that strategy. This may help sales professionals compare each strategy visually, rather than reviewing sales numbers and statistics on a spreadsheet.

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How To Create A Bubble Chart In Excel

Here are seven steps you can use as a guide when creating a bubble chart in Excel:

1. Open the Excel spreadsheet

To begin, open the Excel sheet where you intend to include the bubble chart. To open a new spreadsheet, select the 'File' tab, then select 'New'. Once you open the sheet, click the 'Insert' button, which prompts a toolbar of various graphics and charts to appear at the top of your screen.

2. Add data

Before you create your bubble chart, it is a good idea to have the data you want to use ready. Add the data into Excel, with labels and values. Remember that a bubble chart typically requires at least three variables to be useful.

You can also create the bubble chart first and then add data by right-clicking on the chart and clicking 'Select Data' on the menu. This brings up the 'Select Data Source' window, which allows you to add data manually or select ranges from your Excel sheet. This is also where you can go to edit data you have already added to the bubble chart.

3. Insert the bubble chart

To create the bubble chart, highlight the cells that contain your data. In the toolbar, navigate to the 'Insert' tab and find the different chart options next to 'Recommended Charts'. Click the icon representing a scatter chart, and then select the bubble chart from the drop-down menu. This creates a basic bubble chart on your spreadsheet.

Related: 20 Advanced Excel Skills For The Workplace (With Examples)

4. Add bubbles

To add bubbles to your chart, right-click on the chart and select the 'Edit Series' button, prompting a table to appear on your screen that allows you to add information for each bubble. When placing your bubbles, keep in mind that each bubble has corresponding cells that align with where you want it to appear on the chart. For example, you may want to place a bubble in cells A7 to A10. Identify the corresponding cells that show where you want to place your bubble, then input that information in the chart under 'Series Bubble Size'.

5. Edit the bubble labels

It is important to add labels as this helps the people you are sharing the chart with understand what the bubbles represent. In Excel, you can easily add labels that appear next to or inside the bubbles. To edit a label, right-click on the relevant bubble, select the 'Edit Label' option, create your desired label and select 'OK'.

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6. Customise the bubbles

You can customise the bubbles to further explain their relationships to one another and present their information more clearly. This can include changing the size, shape, colour, position and design. Here are the steps for changing these features:

  • Size: Go to the 'Format' tab at the top of your screen, and select 'Size' to bring up a bubble resizing box. Select the bubble you want to modify, enter the new height and width and hit 'Enter' on your keyboard.

  • Shape: Go to the 'Format' tab and select 'Shape Styles'. Select the relevant bubble, then choose the shape you want.

  • Colour: Go to the 'Page Layout' tab and select 'Themes'. Choose your preferred colour scheme from the available options.

7. Save the chart

Once you finish editing the bubble chart, save it so that you do not lose any important information. To do so, select 'File' in the top right corner, then select 'Save As'. Choose a relevant file name, navigate to your preferred location for the file and click 'Save'.

Tips For Creating An Effective Bubble Chart In Excel

Here are a few tips that can help you when creating bubble charts:

Make sure it is the right choice

Bubble charts are visually appealing and can be extremely useful, but they may not suit every situation. For example, if you want to visualise data that only involves two variables, it may be a good idea to use a different type of charts, such as a bar or line chart. Reserve bubble charts for visualising data with three or more variables.

Consider using 3D bubbles

Excel provides you with the option of changing your 2D bubbles to 3D. This can be useful for getting the attention of your colleagues or clients. To change your bubbles to 3D, click the 'Insert' button, then select the scatter chart graphic. From the drop-down menu, select the '3D Bubble' option to turn each 2D bubble on your chart into a 3D bubble.

Related: 30 Of The Most Advanced Formulas And Functions In Excel

Think about the design

When creating your chart, compare your design choices. A bubble chart is more likely to be useful if it has visual clarity, and your design choices can affect that clarity. For example, it is likely to be easier to tell the difference between the bubbles if they each have distinct colours, such as red, green and blue, rather than several shades of the same colour. You can also change the shape of the bubbles, but it may be a good idea to use other shapes only for one or two variables that you want to highlight.

Ask for feedback

It is important to show your chart to team members you may collaborate with, but it can also be valuable to ask for feedback from someone who is not working on the same project. After creating your bubble chart, consider asking a colleague to look at it and give their opinion on how easy it is to understand. They can provide the perspective of someone who is not as familiar with the data as you and your team might be, and you can incorporate their feedback before presenting the chart.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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