If you don't know what a stacked bar chart is, here is an example:
But stacked bar graphs do not have to take things lying down. They can be vertical, too. Which leads me to my problem: When should you use the horizontal format...and when should you use the vertical format? My Google Fu hasn't turned up any rules. Seems like everyone is just letting it all hang out.
There are three layout options shown below. I know I don't have the categories labeled, but I just want to consider layout at the moment. Just FYI, the data represent scores on the 2011 Washington state test for reading. The shades of green, from lightest to darkest, show the percent of students at a school who scored at Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4.
The first layout has a very traditional look:
Labels for each grade are to the left. The graphs are (more or less) placed so that you can make a quick comparison among the grade levels. But is this better?
Same data. Same graphs. Just rotated 90 degrees. I don't know about you, but I find this easier to "read" when looking across the grade levels. It's true that there would be some issues with how closely the graphs can be pushed together due to the labels, but the overall format is okay.
And finally, my least favourite, but deserving of discussion is this:
Considering that there will be more graphs for mathematics, science, and writing, would it be more important to look at performance for a subject area across and review data for a grade level along a vertical axis (not shown here, but imagine there are stacked bar charts for the other subject areas underneath).
What do you think? Just from the standpoint of layout, which format is most meaningful for you?