What is a waterfall chart?
At its core, the waterfall chart is a stacked bar chart with a visible and an invisible series of bars. The invisible series acts as a placeholder that hides the previous amount, to help the viewer understand changes in the distribution. Incremental bars add up, decremental bars subtract from the previous value. Commonly the initial and the final values are represented by whole columns starting at a zero baseline. Intermediate values are shown as floating columns that begin based on the value of the previous column. Connecting lines help the viewer to see the increments. These strokes avoid distracting or adding clutter to the chart. Vizzlo’s waterfall chart is the easiest and most beautiful alternative to the Excel waterfall chart.
Waterfall charts are widely adopted in accounting and sales, as well as in management. It is regularly used by strategic consulting firms to analyze cash flows. It is used as an instrument to estimate the value of a company to address key questions that can come up from stakeholders.
A typical use-case of a waterfall chart is the so-called EBITDA bridge to analyze business performances. That is a breakdown of individual components that contribute to the movement in a company’s EBITDA. A Waterfall chart quickly and effectively shows the drivers of profitability. Waterfall charts are a tool to alleviate some of the burden to layout easy-to-follow explanations of business performance.
Use it also to forecast financial performance, based on the estimated effects of economic and political drivers, such as tax reliefs, price increases, mergers and acquisitions.
Environmental agencies use waterfall charts too, e.g. to visualize the annual change of CO2 emissions by breaking down the main drivers of that development.
Fun fact: This chart is also referred to as flying bricks chart or Mario chart due to its floating bars—their look closely resembles the way bricks are laid out in 2D Jump ‘n’ Run games like the classic “Mario Bros.” arcade of the early 1980s.
How to create a waterfall chart with Vizzlo?
- Switch to horizontal mode by one click.
- Set colors for positive and negative values.
- Click on any bar to change its value or properties like color.
- Import your data from your Microsoft Excel file or CSV file, or paste it into Vizzlo’s spreadsheet.
- Add a subtotal column by clicking on the “Σ” handles on the right side of any selected bar.
- Add Sum / Difference arrows to compare values across bars.
- Explore the layout settings to show or hide the connectors, and choose how to display the labels.
Waterfall chart maker: key features
- Adjust the width of the bars.
- Change colors of bars and lines.
- Show axes and grid lines.
- Show multiple subtotal columns.
- Show individual values.
- Optional labeling of bars.
- Compare values across bars by their sum, difference, growth rate, or ratio.
- Add a shade to highlight parts of the chart.
- Show sum values above the bars.
- Adjust the number format, add prefix or suffix.
- Set minimum and maximum values for the y-axis.
- Add a scale break to the y-axis.
- Show multiple series per category.
Waterfall Chart: What's new?
We set better defaults for the axis labels when you customize the range of the y-axis
NEW We added more customization options to the Sum / Difference arrows. Instead of calculations, it is now possible to show free text.
NEW More options to compare values across bars using Sum/Difference Arrows.
- Growth rate
NEW The label for Sum/Difference Arrows can be moved now.
Performance improvements of the text rendering – resizing columns and writing text is a lot faster now. 🏃♀️
NEW The Waterfall chart is now also available in horizontal mode!
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