Charts and maps can increase the efficiency and expressiveness of data. Microsoft Excel 1985 was the first of many visualization tools to help communicate data, such as large images at the executive level and detailed weekly dashboards.
Many visualization tools have emerged ever since. In this article, I will evaluate three of them – Excel, Tableau and Datawrapper – based on (i) pricing, (ii) educational level required and (iii) ability to generate professional-level charts quickly.
To illustrate, I create the same graph on each of the three tools based on a Statista data set below.
Global market share
|Market share %
|Squarespace Online stores||17.69|
|We stay e-commerce||2.25|
|SAP Commerce Cloud||1.6|
Microsoft Excel is often used for data visualization. Here's how I visualized the data after a little editing.
- Pricing. Microsoft 365 Business is cheap compared to other tools. The price is $ 5 to $ 20 per user per month with an annual commitment. The $ 5 option includes Excel, Word and PowerPoint. The higher versions also include Outlook, Publisher and Access.
- Level of education is needed. Most employees in the office have at least a basic knowledge of Excel. They may not know how to create dashboards or interactive visualization, but they probably know the process of generating charts.
- Ability to quickly create professional charts. The default Excel chart is outdated and tends to be cluttered, containing redundant design elements and low-contrast colors that are inaccessible to visually impaired users. However, it is always possible to adapt and improve the design, but it requires more effort.
tableau was founded in 2003. It quickly became a data visualization leader and innovator. Tableau is the leading business intelligence software with, reportedly, 12.3 percent US market share. Tableau's software is on a user's computer. There is also a cloud-based version.
Here is the same Statista data in Tableau, visualized almost identical to the Excel version above.
- Pricing. Tableau offers three pricing options: (i) The viewer is $ 12 per user per month, (ii) Explorer is $ 35 per user per month, and (iii) The creator is $ 70 per user per month. Please note that these prices include Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server. Desktop is the tool for building visualizations; Server is the cloud-based platform for publishing and sharing these visualizations.
- Level of education is needed. Tableau is a drag-and-drop tool. It is relatively easy to learn. Users can drag "dimensions" (labels) and "dimensions" (numbers) to appropriate locations (for colors and shapes) and select a chart from a significant built-in library. Tableau offers comprehensive, free online education.
- Ability to quickly create professional charts. Tableau has many more visualization features than Excel. For example, when the user draws a dimension or dimension in the color mark, Tableau automatically recommends an overall color palette with appropriate contrasts. The chart templates are cleaner and better designed than Excel. Users can copy an Excel chart in Tableau, as in my examples above. The difference is that Excel requires more time to edit and compose charts in terms of color, shape, placement and type.
Datawrapper is a cloud-based visualization tool with more features than Excel but not as many as Tableau. Here is the Datawrapper version of Statista data.
- Pricing. Datawrapper offers a free version that includes Datawrapper branding, as in my example above. The custom version without the Datawrapper brand is 499 € per month. The Enterprise Edition price is not published; interested prospects must reach out to the company. The free version has limited design features and fewer chart types. The custom version is more robust. The Enterprise version offers even more features.
- Level of education is needed. I created the chart above in Datawrapper without training. The process involved four steps, called "Upload data", "Check and describe", "Visualize" and "Publish and embed." Datawrapper offers email support. Among the three tools, Datawrapper was the most intuitive and required the least training.
- Ability to quickly create professional charts. Like Tableau, Datawrapper has a nice design and offers many map and map options. All visualizations are highly customizable, although the free version is more limited than Custom and Enterprise.