How to Make a Histogram Your Audience Will Understand

Brian Nuckols

Written by:
Brian Nuckols

Aug 18, 2020
histogram - header

Communicating findings from your data is a powerful way to communicate with your audience. Histograms are an essential tool in your data storytelling toolkit that help you communicate important insights that are embedded in your data. 

When you have a data set that you’re trying to share with your audience, Visme gives you access to an entire suite of powerful visual communication tools. In short, there are much better ways of communicating it than just sharing the numbers as is.

One of the best approaches is to use a chart or graph to help visually represent your data. This will help your readers instantly digest the information you’re sharing with them. 

There are many different types of charts and graphs you can utilize with Visme, but right now we’re going to focus on the histogram.

turn boring numbers into beautiful data with visme


What is a Histogram?

A histogram is a vertical bar chart that shares data from different categories or ranges, like an age range from a customer survey.

While bar charts can be shown either vertically or horizontally, a histogram will always be vertical. This is because the high bar represents a high quantity for the category or range you select. Because of this, it makes more sense visually to create these vertically.

In our age range example, say you have an organization-wide initiative to increase sales in a certain age demographic. You send out a survey to get some initial data, and you want to communicate your findings to help direct your marketing strategy.

In this case, a histogram is the perfect choice because it will clearly demonstrate which ages appear most commonly, and which are lagging behind. 

histogram - bookstore customers template
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

In a histogram, the horizontal x-axis is always labeled with the midpoints, class ranges or class boundaries. As a visual storyteller, this is one of the key design choices you’ll make in the creation of your histogram. 

The vertical y-axis will be labeled with the frequency that each class appears in your data set. Returning to our customer survey example, the frequency represents how many times each age range appears in our survey. 

For example, if our survey shows 65 previous customers between 20-25 then its frequency is 65. 

When we transform our customer survey data into a histogram it’s easy to see the frequency distribution of our data set. Histograms are powerful tools for frequency distributions because they share the story of the data clearly. 

This is why histograms are the most commonly used graph to show frequency distributions. 


Key Differences Between Histogram and Bar Graphs

While histograms may look very much like a bar chart there are some important distinctions to explore that will help you learn when to use a histogram. 

First and foremost, a histogram refers to a representation that displays data using bars to show the frequency of numerical data. 

A bar graph refers to a representation of data that uses bars to compare different categories of data.

This difference between frequencies and categories is crucial to understand what statistical tool is best for sharing your story. 

Frequencies are any variables that represent amounts. Some examples are height, weight, age or how much revenue a customer has contributed to your business.

histogram - bmi prevalence template
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Categories are any variables that represent groups including things like rankings, classifications or binary outcomes. An example we may be interested in as a categorical variable is whether or not a customer follows us on a social media channel or not. 

Going back to our customer age survey, it's clear that a histogram is the best choice because we want to communicate the frequency of certain age ranges in a survey. 

If we decided to do another analysis where we wanted to see what percentage of customers followed our various social media channels to understand how social drives revenue, one of Visme’s numerous bar graph templates is a better choice. 


When Should You Use a Histogram

Now that we explored what a histogram is and some of its key distinctions, let’s explore a few examples of when it makes sense to use a histogram for your data communication purposes. 

There are a few instances where a histogram is going to be your best option for displaying your data. A good rule of thumb to remember is that you’ll always need to have some kind of range on your x-axis, whether it’s an age range, weight range or anything else.

Remember that histograms are all about counting frequency, or the amount that something happened in a specific range.

histogram - facebook users by age
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Here are a few common use cases where histograms are excellent choices to help support your visual communication strategy.

  1. View the shape of your data set’s distribution to look for outliers or other significant data points
  2. Determine whether something significant has occurred from one time period to another
  3. Find out whether the outcome of two or more marketing campaigns are different
  4. Communicate insights about how the data is distributed quickly and easily 

Additionally, when you have a large set data set that you’re not sure what to do with a histogram is a great way to get organized. 

Histograms make it easy to see where the majority of values are located. Plus, histograms are great at showing you how much variation there is within the data. 

Finally, a histogram is a fantastic tool to assist in a decision making process.

Building a histogram will reveal different shapes, sizes, and the spreads within your data. These all can have unique meanings that can assist with the exploration of problems and making of decisions.


How to Gather Data For Your Histogram

Now that we’ve explored when you should construct a histogram it’s time to explore the best way to start constructing a histogram from your data. 

The first step is to make sure you have a continuous variable that you want to represent graphically via histogram, like the weight of newborns.

histogram - weights of newborns
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

To start building the histogram from this variable we first need to split the data into intervals, called bins. 

When it comes to newborn weight, we could split varying weights into bins, with each bin representing a 1.5 kg period starting at 1 kg. Each bin will contain the number of babies that fall into that range.

Curious about the basic steps you can take to create a histogram? Check out our short video on how to create charts and graphs with Visme.

 As a general best practice, try to get at least 50 data points. This will allow for meaningful patterns to emerge and make sure you aren’t looking at statistical noise. 

As your data library begins to grow, you can use historical information to establish a baseline against any new surveys. If you’re going to use this approach just make sure to use a standard measurement procedure for each survey. 

By using this historical approach, you can use histograms to compare samples from different time periods. 


How to Make a Histogram in Visme

Now that we’ve discussed the best ways to collect data for your histogram, we can learn how to make one in Visme. 

To get started, sign in to your Visme account and open up your dashboard. Navigate over to the left-hand sidebar and click on Create.

histogram - your visme dashboard

Click on Infographics and type Histogram into the search box.

Next, you’ll see a large collection of our customizable histogram templates. The great thing is that all of our templates are designed by professionals. This means they are already equipped for your next data project. 

histogram - available visme templates

Select your favorite template and click Edit to customize it for your own project.

Once you’re inside the Visme editor, you can easily edit the histogram data and replace the values with your data that we collected earlier. 

Click on the histogram and the spreadsheet for your data will appear. You can easily input and color code your data right in this spreadsheet, or you can import an external spreadsheet.

histogram - how to add data in visme
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Just click on Import Data and you can easily import it directly from an Excel file or Google sheet.

Once you’ve finished uploading your data, it’s easy to customize the histogram colors. You can also customize the labels, fonts and more to create your unique histogram. 

Additionally, you can take your histogram to the next level by enabling animation. This can be a crucial step if you want to publish your histogram on social media. 

Next, you can change the background and title. Make sure to edit, add or remove any other text or elements around your histogram as you see fit.

When you’re happy with the way your histogram looks, download it in high-resolution image or PDF format by clicking on the “Download” button on the top-right corner of the screen.


Get Started Making A Histogram

Histograms are both visually appealing and effective tools to present data. They can also help transform complex research into easy to understand insights. 

Creating histograms for your next presentation or report is easy with the Visme graph engine. Whether you're a student, designer, business professionals or executive histograms can help take your visual communication strategy to new heights. 

Once you're finished share your findings on social media. Also, you can add your histogram to a mini-infographics and share a visually appealing graphic. 

Or you can take the next step and create long-form infographics with multiple histograms and text. These are great resources to publish on your blog. 

Finally, you can always download your histograms as a high-resolution image or in PDF format if you need hard copies

Sign up for a free Visme account now and start creating your histogram online in minutes. Get started with a template, and dive into the world of histograms. Share your creation with me on Twitter and use #MyVisme!

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    About the Author

    Brian Nuckols is a writer working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enjoys communicating visionary ideas in clear, action oriented language. When he’s not working on content for a transformative company you can find him analyzing dreams, creating music, and writing poetry.

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