I want to visualize goal achievment progress. This is my first idea:

  • use area chart to show progress in current metric
  • use horizontal band to show the goal value
  • colorize areas under/above the band into "positive" and "negative" colors

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Is this approach informative enough? Are there better choises?

Additional info:

  • charts made in Tableau
  • two data sources: metric progress & goals
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would say it is simple and clear. You always can find a different and more complicated solution but in most cases simpler is better. $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 9:19
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I see no reason to use area charts here rather than line charts. In the first panel in particular where the vertical axis does not include zero, the visual signal of the areas are likely to be confusing as they encode (actual $-$ 60%), not actual, and similarly for the goal. I note that many people would object to not including zero any way, but I don't join them. If (actual $-$ goal) is the real focus of interest, show it directly. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 11:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Agree with both prior commentators. An additional point I've seen made that I think is applicable is to label the numerical value at the end point (Bradstreet, 2012). This allows precise calculation of the difference between the goal and current without having to resort to seeing the axis (which is harder the further right you get). I personally find the blue-red background and somewhat heavy gridlines distracting, but such aesthetics are arguable. $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 12:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Drawing a line instead of an area like @NickCox suggests has the added benefit that it is easier to highlight and bring to the foreground in the chart. Different application, but same principle here. This is much harder to do with an area in a visually pleasing way (the area portion is essentially superfluous). $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


I agree with @NickCox's suggestion above to remove the area shading, and just plot lines:

  1. A progress line showing the change over time (assuming the X-axis is time).
  2. A horizontal line indicating the goal value.
  3. If desired, a vertical line indicating the X-axis value where the progress line intersects the progress line.

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