How to Create a Spider Chart

top of the chart image by Steve Johnson from

Spider charts are visualisations that compare objects, corporations or other items that have quantifiable attributes similar to each other. The charts are often used to see how the features of similar objects or the services of similar companies rate when compared to one another. A spider chart consists of several overlapping layers arranged in a circular grid. The grid has four or more axes that run through its centre. Each object or entity that is subject to comparison is laid onto this grid. The shape of the layer depends on how the entities' qualities are measured along each axis. As multiple layers are superimposed onto the grid, you can quickly see where one object excels over another in a given area. There are a few ways to create a spider chart.

Use the drawing tools in any Microsoft Office program to create a spider chart manually from scratch. Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint all contain the same drawing features. These allow you to build a series of concentric circles for the original spider chart grid. You can then draw free-form objects for each layer representing an object or entity. The "format object" properties in these programs allow many attributes of the drawings to be manipulated, including colour and transparency. It is thus possible to construct a typical spider chart with relative ease by giving each layer its own colour and setting the layers to enough transparency that each is visible despite the overlapping. Prior to beginning a spider chart using this technique, you must already have the quantifiable features calculated in advance, as this process does not automatically build the chart based on numerical data.

Download an official Microsoft template for the creation of a spider chart. The Microsoft website contains hundreds of free templates for many forms of charting. These templates are for use in Microsoft software. A spider chart template is available for Microsoft Visio that automatically builds the chart based off numerical data. The graphic design of the spider chart is completely handled by the software if you first provide the data. The program then constructs the multilayer circular grid that is characteristic of this style of charting, and interprets the data to individually create each layer and the multiple axes that represent the data. A legend is built along with the chart for easy interpretation of the data.

Install a third-party add-on for Microsoft Excel that builds spider charts from data stored in spreadsheets. Such a utility uses the powerful Excel programming language and native charting features to custom-build a spider chart from scratch for you automatically. These charts, also known as radar charts, can utilise different combinations of data to create visual comparisons of nearly any scenario. The number of compared entities or objects as well as the number of axes are customisable. A free Excel add-on for this purpose is available from TM Operations for all versions of Excel. Simply download the program and open it in Excel to begin making the spider chart.

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