# Ok, don’t eat the waffle chart

In a previous post, I discussed making a Button Bar Chart. That whole process really inspired me to think about simplified charts for presentations.

Which got me thinking about Waffle Charts.

Waffle charts are excellent for looking at data sets where the smallest numbers are the important ones. You can use colour (as I have above) to make those numbers stand out.

But oddly, I don’t see people using a lot of waffle charts in their presentations. And there is no template for a waffle chart in Excel.

You can find some interesting ideas about building Excel waffle charts for dashboard purposes and I recommend this article to you: Interactive Waffle Charts in Excel

However, I was looking for something different. Something that wouldn’t have me counting and colouring cells manually (shudder).

# Building the Waffle

I chose to build the waffle chart using a series of conditional formatting rules. The first step was creating the formula to count the cells of the waffle.

In case the picture is a bit small, the formula used here is:
=(MOD(ROW()+8,10)*10)+(COLUMN()-2)+1

This uses the row and column position of the cell to count from 1 to 100 in a 10 by 10 grid.

I then built on that base formula with this monster formula:

=IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=’5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$2,’5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$2, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=(‘5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$2+’5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$3),’5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$3, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$2:\$A\$4),’5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$4, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$2:\$A\$5),’5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$5, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$2:\$A\$6),’5 Category Waffle’!\$A\$6,0)))))

The sheet BTW is called 5 Category Waffle.

The formula checks the position number of the cell generated by the base formula and sees if it is less than or equal to the number of values in each category in column A. It then returns the value of the category in each cell.

Because I wanted to put symbols in the cell like these examples.

I took that monster formula and made it into a named formula.

This made building the conditional formatting rules much easier to do(simply because the conditional formatting dialog is so cramped).

Lastly, I built a series of conditional formatting rules to change the background colour of the cell based on the value returned by the formula. For the waffles using symbols, the rule formats the colour of the font, instead of the background.

# A couple of additional pointers

• To create a perfect grid, switch the view in Excel to Page Layout View. Page Layout View uses the same measurement scale for both row height and column width.  Set your measurements here.
• For the symbol waffles, use the File> Options>Advanced> Display Options for this worksheet and turn off the display of gridlines. That way when you copy the waffle, the gridlines will be invisible.

# Simple or Complicated?

Simple or complicated? It’s been my observation that anyone can make a subject sound complicated – but it takes real understanding of a topic to simplify it in a way that is meaningful.

This is why, when I saw this sample slide below from designer Julie Terberg, I sat up and paid attention. Here is a wonderful example of a chart that is simple in a beautiful and useful way. Immediately, you can see that an audience would find this chart easy to read and understand

I paid even more attention when I saw the way that Neil Malek put together an Excel version of the chart. Neil introduces a clever technique using shapes in data labels.  Here is the YouTube video:

Unfortunately, Neil’s clever technique is only available in Office 2016. I wanted to build the chart in Office 2010, for the benefit of my clients still using 2010.

I think that in the end, I succeeded. If you are interested in building this chart, and like me you are restricted to Office 2010, then I have a few pointers for you.

# Button Bar Chart Pointers

• Data Labels in 2010 can not use shapes. Instead, I tweaked the Shadow setting for the label, by setting the colour to match the fill on the label and the size to 150%. I left all other settings to zero. Shaping the label this way means that you can never achieve the circle that Julie used in her example. Instead, the best you can do is a lozenge shape. You can modify this when you change the font size in the label.
• But once you’ve used the Shadow to enlarge your button, you can’t use it to shadow the data label. I solved this problem with an old fashioned solution. I made two charts (a 2016 and a 2017 chart). The two charts are grouped together.  Each chart has a data label for the year and a data label for the shadow. In the example below those labels are using the 1 values. The column labelled 2016 value is the length of the bar.
• The Shadow column must proceed the 2016 column or your shadow will wind up on top of the 2016 label. Also format your labels in that order as well, or the shadow will temporarily be on top of the 2016 label.