What Is a Spider Chart & How Does It Work?

You must know the importance of data visualization if you’re reading this post. Charts and graphs are used in all aspects of our lives because they make complex information more accessible and understandable to a wider audience. Spider charts or graphs, also known as radar graphs are visually appealing, yet complex visual diagrams. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about spider chart plots and how they can be used to extract valuable insights from your data.

What is a Spider Chart?

Spider charts or diagrams, also called radar charts or star charts, are a type of data visualization that displays two or more dimensions in multivariate data. These dimensions are quantitative and range from zero to maximum values, forming spider web shapes.

The graphics are useful in many different business scenarios. Their most common uses include HR Analytics, which compares employee performance according to specific attributes, or market research, which compares brands and products to see how the public perceives them.

They aren’t the most popular type of data visualization because they are difficult to understand for audiences who aren’t too familiar with data analytics. They can be engaging visuals, however, for audiences with more experience because their shape is appealing.

Different Types of Spider Graphs

1. Marked Spider Chart

The only difference is that the markers used to represent the data points are not present on the radar chart.

2. Filling Spider Chart

This chart is very similar to a radar chart, with the exception that the entire radar area has been filled in a specific color to help distinguish it from the other radars.

What is a spider diagram?
What is a spider diagram?

When to Use a Spider Chart and When Not to

After you’ve mastered the spider chart, we will explore its most common uses and analyze scenarios where you should avoid it. Radar graphs work best when the exact values of the data are not critical. The irregular shapes can make it difficult to understand the differences.

The most common application of spider charts is to compare values. This can be done by comparing a number of attributes, characteristics, or features. The audience can analyze a series of values by comparing the distances between the center of the chart and the end of the axis. They can also compare different groups. After all values have been connected by a line, the polygons are created. This allows users to compare shapes at a glance and draw conclusions. The larger the area that the polygon covers the better it will perform against a specific dimension.

A spider graph chart can be used by an HR manager to assess the performance of their employees on specific criteria, such as punctuality and productivity. HR can identify areas of improvement and weaknesses by comparing employees from both an individual and team perspective.

These visuals are also used to compare performance against a target. You can do this by plotting a polygon for the actual performance, and another one as the target. You can compare ROI benchmarks and actual ROI for each department. Also, you can compare the size of the shapes in order to determine which departments are achieving the best results and which need improvement.

How to Read a Spider Diagram?

Spider charts plot data on two axes. They are similar to line graphs, scatterplots, and other charts that are used in business communication. The coordinate system we use for plotting data on a Spider Chart is less common. Most business charts use Cartesian coordinates but spider charts use Polar coordinates.

Cartesian coordinates

Cartesian coordinates are used in most common two-dimensional graphs like scatterplots. We use X values and Y numbers to determine the locations of points on two perpendicular planes: horizontally and vertically.

We can examine the X/Y locations of many points simultaneously by assigning each point a pair (X and Y). This allows us to get a sense of how the X and Y variables relate across all items in our data.

This type of graph and coordinates system is designed to help the viewer compare two related measures across different items.

Polar coordinates

In a system of polar coordinates, we determine the location of points by using two values: “distance to the center” (or “distance to the pole”) and “angle to a reference line.”

What is the Difference Between a Spider Chart and a Radar Chart?

Both “radar graph”, and “spider charts” are often used interchangeably. The term “spider chart diagram” is used more or less interchangeably. The dots in radar charts and spider charts are almost always linked.

The graph will look like a spider’s web if several series are plotted on one plot. This is especially true if no color is used to fill any of the areas. The area between the chart origin and the connecting lines is usually filled with semi-transparent colors.

Spider Graphs Best Practices & Tips

Radar charts require a well-thought-out design. Following some best practices and tips will help you create successful spider web charts to support your analysis efforts. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

  • Be familiar with the dimensions

Like any chart, the number of dimensions that you can plot on a radar or spider graph is limited. Spider graphics are different from bar charts where the size of the bars is enough to understand the data. Instead, spider graphics require you to look at irregular shapes with different angles and peaks. This makes it difficult to grasp data when there are many areas that overlap. It is therefore recommended that you use between one and six dimensions when not using transparent fillings. When filling in the transparent colors, the best number of dimensions is one to three. This is because the overlap of colors can hide the data.

  • Consider your audience

This should be applied to all charting processes, but particularly to those that are more complex or lesser-known graphs like the one discussed in this post. We mean by “think about your audience” that you should be aware of how well they understand the graphs and data in them. Use interactive features to show the audience how to build the chart and plot each variable. You’ll be able to give your audience the knowledge and understanding they need to better understand the data you want to present. Another good way to do this is by using chart labels that clearly communicate the essential information.

  • Organise dimensions in a wise way

There is technically no rule that dictates the order of dimensions in a spider-web chart. It is best to arrange them in an order that makes sense, as the size and shape of the filled areas can change significantly depending on how you organize the chart. Place dimensions that are similar or related together.

What are the best practices for spider graphs (radar graphs)?
What are the best practices for spider graphs (radar graphs)?