Gauges Are Still a Terrible Idea!
"Your product doesn't even cover gauges," a customer fumed when she asked for a refund.
That's right, because gauges are still a terrible idea.
by Charley Kyd, MBA
Microsoft Excel MVP, 2005-2014
The Father of Spreadsheet Dashboard Reports
recently received a note from a reader who was upset with my e-book,
Dashboard Reporting With Excel.
In part, she wrote, ďI thought maybe your product might
be useful, so for $39.00 I thought I would give it a try.
However, after reviewing it, itís clear that your product
doesnít even cover Gauges. In fact, you donít even endorse
So she asked for a refund, which I issued
immediately, of course.
resistance to gauges should have come as no surprise to her; my
article, Down With Gauges!, has
received high Web traffic for years.
In part, I responded that there are at least two good
alternatives to gauges.
charts, shown here, provide the same information in a space thatís much
more compact and easier to read.
Second, as I illustrate in Down
With Gauges, area charts with a line plot show trends in
data that a gauge would display as individual snapshots. Those
trends provide significant information that neither gauges nor
bullet charts can.
illustrate, this example from Down
With Gauges shows that performance has been in or near the
red zone for a year. But in December, the turnaround looks like
it might actually be working.
I also told her about a private discussion several of us Excel
MPVs had a while back. We concluded that using gauges is a
horrible idea and that even if Excel included gauge-type shapes,
it would be unethical to help companies create them. I told her
that I could think of only one reason ever to use a gauge: Your
boss insists on them.
Thatís right. If your boss insists you clutter up your reports
or digital displays with those expensive-but-crappy gauges, you
have no choice.
But if you DO have a choice, if you want to keep
expenses low and make it as easy as possible for your readers to
visualize the performance of your company, avoid gauges.