Both column charts and histograms display varying quantities using vertical bars plotted on a two-axis graph. If you take a glance at the charts below, you’ll likely notice that the major difference between the two has to do with the size of the gaps between columns. Column charts typically have distinct gaps, while histograms have little or no gap between vertical bars. There’s more to it than that, though – as you’ve probably guessed.
Simply put, a column chart represents categories while a histogram represents ranges.
Categories refers to discrete data sets. Examples (which could be well displayed with a column chart) include:
- Number of students who use different modes of transportation to travel to school
- Number of social media users per continent
- USA population per state
On the other hand, ranges refers varying values on a continuous scale. Examples (which could be well displayed using a histogram) include:
- Average math scores among a particular group of students
- Average heights among pro athletes in a given sport
- Average income per capita among six different age groups
How They’re Created
In a column chart, you can order the categories displayed in any way you like, as long as the data on the horizontal and vertical axes match. In the charts below, you’ll see examples of how variables could be rearranged.
In a histogram, attempting to rearrange categories would defeat the purpose of using a histogram at all. Look over the example below. As you can see, if you were to rearrange the columns, viewers would probably find the result confusing. Further, the tiny gaps between the columns help convey the idea of continuity. You might also want to check the other articles in this series: