Published on

January 3, 2024


Comparing Histogram vs Bar Graph: Key Differences and Similarities

Histograms and bar graphs are both vital tools in data visualization. Learn when to use each and find the best tools to generate these charts in 1 click.
Julia Dunlea
VP of Marketing

Data visualization plays a pivotal role in making sense of the vast amounts of information generated in today’s always-on world. It helps us uncover hidden patterns, trends, and relationships within complex datasets.

Histograms and bar graphs are two popular chart types that nearly all tools support. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the nuances of histogram vs bar graph, compare their similarities and differences, and explore practical examples to better understand their applications in data visualization.

Key Takeaways

  • Histograms and bar graphs are graphical representations of numerical or categorical data, respectively.
  • The key differences between them include their x-axis representation, the arrangement of bars, and suitability for different types of data.
  • Both can be used in practical applications to analyze datasets and identify trends for informed decision-making.
  • Both are widely supported by visualization platforms like Akkio, Excel and Google Sheets


A histogram reporting hypothetic visits by day for a website

Histograms serve as graphical representations of quantitative data, illustrating the distribution of values in a dataset through vertical bars of varying heights that represent the frequency of occurrences within specific intervals or bins.

They are particularly suitable for visualizing single sets of numerical data, shedding light on the distribution and patterns present within the data.

One practical use of a histogram is to plot the ages of customers, displaying the relative proportions of individuals across various age groups with bins of equal width. This helps businesses understand their customer base better and devise targeted marketing strategies accordingly.

Histogram's X-Axis

Each bar in a histogram spans from one number to another, representing a continuous range of values on the x-axis. These bars, rendered as rectangular blocks, signify the ranges of values within the dataset, and the area of each bar indicates the frequency of occurrences within that range. The y-axis, represents dependent variables or occurrences.

The ability of histograms to present continuous data like time, temperature, or distance lies in the continuous nature of their x-axis. This allows histograms to effectively display the distribution of numerical data and the frequency of occurrences within specific ranges, making each range a valuable data point.

Frequency of Occurrences

Histograms effectively reveal the frequency of occurrences within each defined interval or bin. The bars in a histogram illustrate grouped values, with the height of each bar representing the number of occurrences within a specific range. To divide the ranges in a histogram chart, one must specify a bin value, which determines the intervals within the dataset.

The shape of a histogram can reveal valuable insights about data distribution, such as symmetric distributions, skewed left or right distributions, or unimodal, bimodal, and multimodal distributions. By analyzing the frequency of occurrences and the shape of the histogram, one can better understand patterns and trends within the data.

Bar Graphs

A Bar graph showing hypothetical website traffic, segmented by source

A bar graph is a graphical representation of data utilizing bars of varying heights, with each bar representing a separate category of items. Bar graphs are ideal for representing categorical data, making them suitable for comparing metrics across distinct categories.

Consider a survey of 100 individuals about their favorite type of music; this represents a simple application of a bar graph. Each bar in the graph would represent a distinct music genre, and the height of each bar would be proportional to the number of people who chose that genre as their favorite.

Bar Graph's X-Axis

In a bar graph, which is also known as a column chart, each bar is a representative of a distinct category of items. These categories are represented on the x-axis as separate entities. Depending on the style of presentation, the bars can be oriented either horizontally or vertically.

The length of these bars is not arbitrary but is contingent on the values they contain. This length is a reflection of the magnitude of the data within each category, providing a visual representation of the data's scale.

It’s important to maintain equal spacing between two bars in a bar graph, facilitating the interpretation and comparison of data across categories. This clear distinction between bars allows for easier analysis of the relationships between different data points.

Comparing Metrics Across Categories

Bar graphs stand out for their ability to compare and contrast metrics across multiple categories. Each category is represented by a distinct bar on the graph, with the height of each bar reflecting the value of the metric for that category.

An alternate example would be utilizing a bar graph to illustrate the revenue produced by various products within a company. Each bar would symbolize a product, and the height of the bar would correspond to the revenue that product has generated. This visual representation allows stakeholders to quickly identify top-performing products and areas that may require improvement.

Key Differences Between Histograms and Bar Graphs

Visits per day to a theoretical website. Visualized as a histogram on the left, and as a bar graph on the right.

While both histograms and bar graphs use bars to represent data, they do have some key differences in how they're used, what type of data they work best with, and how they present that data.

Histograms are used to illustrate the distribution of numerical data, with contiguous bars representing intervals or bins that span from one number to another. Bar graphs are utilized to compare values across distinct categories, with separate bars representing different categories of items. Understanding the distinction between a bar graph histogram can help you choose the most appropriate method for presenting your data.

The main differences are:

  • The x-axis of a histogram represents a continuous range of values, while the x-axis of a bar graph signifies discrete categories.
  • The arrangement of bars in histograms is contiguous to one another, while bar graph bars have intervals between them.
  • Histograms are more suitable for visualizing continuous data, while bar graphs excel at comparing categorical data.

Grasping the key differences between histograms and bar graphs is necessary for choosing the right chart type for a specific dataset and objective. By choosing the right chart, one can effectively convey the desired insights and facilitate data-driven decision-making.

Examples: Histogram vs Bar Graph

A few practical examples can help us better understand the applications of histograms and bar graphs.

A marketing analyst might use a histogram to visualize the distribution of website visitors’ ages. This would allow them to identify the age groups that are most engaged with their website and tailor their marketing strategy accordingly.

Alternatively, a bar graph could be used to compare the monthly footfall of a retail store across different locations. The store manager could easily identify the stores with high customer visits and those that are underperforming, enabling them to make strategic decisions about store improvements and promotional activities.

In some cases, it might be advantageous to use both a histogram and a bar graph to analyze the same data. For instance, a financial analyst could use a histogram to examine the distribution of daily stock prices over a year, while a bar graph could be used to compare the average monthly stock prices. By combining these two chart types, the analyst can gain a comprehensive understanding of the stock’s performance and identify trends or anomalies.

Choosing the Right Chart: Histogram or Bar Graph?

Deciding between a histogram and a bar graph can be a challenging task, especially when dealing with complex datasets. Both chart types offer unique benefits and are suitable for different kinds of data. Here are some key questions to guide you in making the right choice:

  • What kind of data are you working with? Is it a continuous stream of measurements or a set of distinct categories?
  • What are you hoping to learn from your data? Are you trying to understand how values are distributed across a range or compare different categories against one another?
  • Does your data represent a continuous sequence of values (like time or temperature) or distinct categories (like product types or customer demographics)?
  • Are you more interested in how frequently certain values occur within a range or how different categories compare to one another?
  • Which type of chart will make your findings easier to understand for your audience?

By considering these questions, you can select the most appropriate chart type for your data, ensuring effective communication of insights, facilitating data-driven decision-making, and enhancing overall understanding.

Enhancing Data Visualization with Advanced Tools

While histograms and bar graphs are valuable for data visualization, there are numerous advanced tools available that can further enhance data presentation and analysis. These tools provide a variety of features including diverse chart types, interactive elements, customization options, and the ability to integrate with other platforms.

Some popular advanced data visualization tools include:

Each tool offers its unique set of features and capabilities, catering to different user needs and levels of expertise.

Integrating advanced data visualization tools into your analysis and presentation workflow can unlock new levels of understanding. These tools enable effective communication of complex data to your audience, empowering them to make informed decisions based on accurate and insightful information.


In conclusion, histograms and bar graphs are both vital tools in data visualization. Histograms excel in illustrating the distribution of numerical data, while bar graphs are perfect for comparing different categories of data.

It's important to understand the key differences and similarities between these two chart types. Additionally, exploring advanced data visualization tools can greatly enhance your ability to present and analyze data.

If you're looking to take your data visualization efforts to the next level, Akkio supports both histogram and bar charts plus over 20 other chart types. The best part? You don't need to understand which one is the best for your data type. We do that for you. Try it for free today - no credit card required.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between histogram and bar graph?

A bar graph is used to compare categorical data, whereas a histogram displays the frequency distribution of continuous variables. Histograms are drawn with no gaps between the bars, representing numerical data, while bar graphs show rectangular bars with length proportional to the values they represent.

When would you use a bar graph rather than a histogram?

Bar graphs are used to compare discrete or categorical variables, while histograms are used to visualize quantitative data and represent the frequency of the data in a dataset. Therefore, bar graphs are used to compare two categories, while histograms are used to illustrate numerical data that has infinite values.

What is the purpose of the x-axis in a histogram and a bar graph?

The x-axis in a histogram represents a continuous range of values, while the x-axis in a bar graph represents discrete categories, providing an easy way to compare and contrast different items.

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