Sankey Diagram

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Your data is always in motion; it’s never static.

Stay on top of the most significant movements with

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Sankey for
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Sankey Graph Complete Guide

What Is A Sankey Diagram?

The Sankey Diagram gives you a detailed, high-level view of how your data flows and changes from one stage to the next.

Tracking these movements reveal many critical insights, including:

  • Where you’re spending the most money or other resources
  • How tight or loose your funnel is
  • The most significant changes between stages
  • How data flows and changes from start to finish of a process
  • And more

Sankey Diagrams save you time during your visual analysis and decision-making and have many applications.

What will you do with your newfound insights and time?

A Sankey Diagram, or energy flow chart, is a type of data visualization that shows the path and quantity of data through various phases, categories or stages.

While it started as a means to literally see how energy flows in an engineering system, the Sankey Diagram now has many applications and purposes.

The History of Sankey Diagrams

The Sankey Diagram gets its name from Matthew Henry Phineas Riall Sankey, a captain in the Irish Royal Engineers.

His 1898 diagram showed the efficiency and purpose of various pipes, boilers and condensers in a steam engine.

Captain Sankey understood that no steam engine or plant runs at 100% efficiency. He set out to create a diagram to help show where a system loses steam heat and pressure.

This early energy flow chart helped the engineer highlight the most significant areas of wasted efficiency in steam plants.

However, the first Sankey-like Diagram came several decades earlier. Charles Joseph Minard used a similar visualization to depict the number of Napoleon’s troops going to and from Russia during 1812.

Captain Sankey adopted this chart when he created his steam Energy Flow Diagram. His work gained a lot of attention and the Sankey Diagram became the best representation of steam engine heat distribution of its time.

It wouldn’t take long for other branches of science and energy to begin using the Sankey Diagram for their own energy flow purposes.

Today, people continue to use Sankey charts in these fields. We also use Sankey Diagrams in finance, marketing/business analytics, supply chain and more.

Whenever you have inputs (materials, resources, etc.) entering a process, the Sankey Diagram can show how efficiently you’re using them.

What Is A Node In Sankey Charts?

Sankey Diagrams show energy flow through one or more “nodes.” A node is a category or stage where resources/energy travel to, from or through.

In a typical Sankey Diagram template, nodes appear as vertical bars at each level. The length of each node represents the value or size of that component.

To help explain what a node is in a Sankey Diagram, let’s imagine a scenario where you would use this type of chart.

A marketing professional wants to see the demographics of who clicks their ads based on device type, gender and age bracket.

To create a Sankey Diagram using this data, you would need three levels and multiple nodes in each level. The first level would be your device types. You may have 3 nodes here for tablets, mobile smartphones and desktop computers.

Next, the gender level may have another 2 nodes for male and female. Finally, you’d have as many nodes as you need to cover each age range.

Again, the node’s size depicts how substantial that item is; a larger node is much more significant. Using this marketing example, you can reason that the mobile node would be the biggest, followed by desktop and tablet.

Levels are also vital to understand. Each level could represent a different data category, a stage in a process/system, a time period, etc.

However, your simple Sankey Diagram becomes increasingly complex as you add more nodes and levels.

What Does Each Arrow Represent In a Sankey Visualization?

In between nodes and levels are arrows, also known as links. These arrows show the energy flow of your data. Remember, “energy” can be resources, materials or other metrics.

The size and path of each arrow reveal lots of valuable information to help you improve the efficiency of your results.

Link size: This expresses the quantity of energy or value for this particular item. The most prominent links or arrows in your Sankey graph are your most significant components.

Link direction: How your data moves through different nodes will change the trajectory or path of each link. Links may also split when the data is flowing through multiple categories.

Link color: The color of each link serves two purposes. First, it helps you separate each arrow from one another. This is really crucial when you have lots of links overlapping. Link color also helps you determine which node the link is coming from.

Like nodes and levels, many links can result in a complex Sankey chart.

You want to think carefully about the scale of your Sankey visualization. A larger scale will help you distinguish each link.

How to Make a Sankey Diagram

ChartExpo is the best Sankey Diagram builder to use because of its easy-to-use charting system. This section will explain how to make a Sankey Diagram using ChartExpo.

The ChartExpo Data Flow Diagram creator uses your spreadsheets to make Sankey charts. It works as an add-on to Google Sheets or Excel.

Once you’ve downloaded the tool for your respective spreadsheet software, you can begin creating Sankey Diagram examples of your own.

You’ll find the ChartExpo extension in the top toolbar of your spreadsheet program. Opening this menu will reveal the “Create New Chart” option.

Next, you’ll select the Sankey Chart from the available options. It’s worth mentioning that ChartExpo has charting options for you to use!

With Sankey selected, you can choose which data column to use as your metric or “energy.” Then, you have to designate the columns to set for your various levels. ChartExpo allows you to create Sankey Diagrams with up to 8 levels.

You don’t have to enter any data manually; just tell ChartExpo which parts of your spreadsheet to use for each component.

When you have the proper data selected, tap the “Create Chart” button to finish. This will display your completed Sankey Diagram. You may want to adjust certain labels or change the title.

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How is a Sankey Diagram Used?

You spend lots of time collecting, organizing and tracking your data. This is all just to measure how your data is moving and changing.

The Sankey Diagram is used to quickly get a bird’s eye view of significant changes to your data across multiple stages. Thus, it’s easy to spot the most significant developments and changes to your data.

It doesn’t matter if you’re tracking costs, materials, marketing analytics or another type of data. The Sankey Diagram is versatile and universal!

The Sankey Diagram is also known as an energy flow chart because it expresses the path and development of data over different stages or nodes.

It can show how efficiently you use resources or materials through various stages. It can also express how data splits over many categories.

There are many applications and ways to use a Sankey Diagram.

See the Flow of Your Data

The movement of your data matters greatly. By nature, data is dynamic. The point or purpose of analysis is to track how and why it is changing.

In a simple data set, recognizing even subtle increases or decreases is fairly easy. As your data grows more complex and involves more categories, steps, etc., it’s no longer easy to manage these changes.

You may reach a tipping point where your data becomes so large and complex that it’s no longer possible to pay attention to every change.

Thus, you need to find the most significant movements in your metrics. These are the ones that will be most crucial and produce the biggest impacts.

A Sankey Diagram helps you recognize the most substantial fluctuations in data across your categories, stages, times or other levels.

The size of each link and node shows you the most crucial elements in your data sets. You can quickly analyze these components before moving on to the smaller, less critical items.

It’s all about maximizing your efficiency. You can make appropriate corrections to prevent losses and maximize your results when you know where your data is at its best and worst points.

The Advantage of a Bird’s-Eye-View

Aside from showing you the flow and movement of your data, the other advantage of using a Sankey Diagram is its ability to give you a bird’s-eye-view of your data.

When you’re trying to analyze the efficiency of one of your systems or processes, such as distribution, budget spending, or manufacturing, this high-level perspective is unbeatable.

You can see the data from your entire process structured to show results at every individual stage or time.

For data that’s rapidly changing, this overhead view is extremely effective for detecting significant shifts in your results.

Once you detect a potential problem or opportunity, you can use other charts to zoom in closer, but the Sankey chart is the best for detecting these occurrences first.

The other advantage of this high-level view is how fast it enables you to tap into potential risks or opportunities.

These occurrences can be time-sensitive, meaning the faster you act, the better. The top-level view of a Sankey Diagram enables you to always have the perfect perspective to find the latest wins and losses.

Nothing will escape your attention undetected, but it might if you only rely on spreadsheets or basic chart types.

Useful Sankey Diagram Examples

To demonstrate how to use an energy chart, let’s look at some Sankey Diagram examples. Each example will show how each component of the chart reveals valuable insights.

For a simple Sankey Diagram, you could use a single level and multiple nodes. While most Sankey visualizations will include at least two levels, it isn’t a requirement.

Let’s say you wanted to picture how you spend your household budget. The level would be your entire household budget. You may use separate nodes to express essential versus non-essential expenses.

Then, the size of each arrow would express how substantial each expense is. If you notice that one of your biggest arrows is your entertainment costs, it might be time to stop painting the town red!

The more common Sankey Diagram will show at least two levels. If you were creating your household budgeting plan with a partner, your first level may show each person’s income in two nodes, while the second level would include multiple nodes for each type of expense.

This would allow you to see who is paying the most for utilities and groceries and who might be splurging too much!

As you add more levels and nodes, your Sankey Diagram becomes increasingly more complex. There will be links crossing one another or changing paths.

The upside is that you’ll continue to discover new and exciting insights the longer you explore your Sankey chart.

Sankey Diagrams are Versatile and Universal

What the many Sankey Diagram examples showcase is how versatile and universal this type of chart is for spreadsheet users.

While Sankey Diagrams may have first been created to depict the efficiency of steam systems, their uses are now numerous.

Don’t let the concept of an “energy chart” fool you. You can depict many types of data with this chart, not exclusively energy-related systems.

There are thousands of other uses for this versatile and universal chart type. You could use a Sankey Diagram for something as simple as your household budget or as complex as the energy flow efficiency of a nuclear power plant.

If you have complex data questions that need answering, there’s a good chance that the Sankey visualization can help.

You can include as many levels or nodes as you want, depending on how much data you want to express. It’s entirely up to you!

Plus, ChartExpo’s easy Sankey Diagram generator is available to all spreadsheet users, whether you’re operating with Excel or Google Sheets. Anyone can start depicting their data using this visualization, no matter what program or skill level you have.

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Visualize Your Spreadsheets with a Sankey Diagram

Your data reaches a tipping point where spreadsheets become too overwhelming and complex to effectively analyze and use.

Charting reduces this complexity substantially. When raw data is visualized, you can see your insights displayed right in front of you. This saves you significant time and headaches.

The Sankey Diagram is one of the best chart types because of its many layers and excellent versatility.

No matter how complex your system or process is, the Sankey chart provides the perspective you need to correct any problems or make strategic improvements.

A simple Sankey Diagram can reveal more in a few minutes than hours of spreadsheet analysis. It’s all about how your brain most effectively responds and retains information.

Compared to raw text or numbers, visuals, like an energy flow chart, are several thousand times better at conveying information. Plus, it’s way easier to remember what you’ve seen versus what you’ve read.

It makes sense when you think about it. Every moment your eyes are open, your brain is absorbing and analyzing visual data. It is extremely familiar with this delivery method!

On the other hand, your brain spends only a few hours engaging with spreadsheets, and that’s being generous.

Spreadsheets are Overloaded, Simplify Them

The problem with spreadsheets isn’t just a matter of human biology. There are many other reasons why these tools don’t lead to efficient or effective analysis.

First, data fatigue and overload are substantial problems. In the age of “Big Data,” your spreadsheets are increasing in size exponentially. We’re producing and collecting more data than ever.

The larger your spreadsheets become, the more overwhelming they are. It becomes a tidal wave of numbers that makes it nearly impossible to draw any conclusions or insights.

When your spreadsheets start to hit this critical mass, you must begin visualizing the information using charts and graphs.

The beauty of the Sankey Diagram is just how much data you can pack into a single chart. You can track multiple metrics across several dimensions between the multiple levels and nodes.

This simplifies that overwhelming wall of numbers in a matter of minutes. It packages your data in an easier environment for you to interact with and analyze, saving you time and headaches. Finally, data is fun to utilize again!

If you feel like your analysis projects have become too arduous to be useful, see what a Sankey Diagram can do for you.

Faster Insights Lead to Swifter Decisions and Actions

The process of transforming a spreadsheet into a Sankey visualization takes very little time, as long as you’re using the ChartExpo Data Flow Diagram tool.

This is just one of the ways that ChartExpo and the Sankey visualization save you time. This combination also makes insights more accessible and easier to extract.

When you reach actionable insights in less time, you receive more value from your data. After all, data is volatile and constantly changing. You need to act fast enough to keep up with its dynamic nature.

For instance, let’s say your Sankey Diagram shows the flow of error messages through each device type. You notice that mobile devices are seeing an exceptionally high number of crashes.

The longer you let this problem persist, the more damage it causes to your user experience. You may even lose current users that are too fed up with the persistent errors. Again, speed is essential in managing your data changes.

Even worse, if you take too long to make decisions or act on your data, you may be reacting to outdated information!

The high-level view of your Sankey chart allows you to see more insights from a single visualization. This leads to better and faster decisions.

Less Data and More Insight

Many spreadsheet users find that they have an overwhelming amount of data, but little knowledge of what to do with it.

This is one of the most significant misconceptions about data. In the Digital Age, people often talk about the importance of data. While data is critical, it doesn’t have any value unless you transform it into insight.

This creates a common scenario where you’re surrounded by data and spreadsheets, but striving for the ability to put them to use.

Essentially, data on its own is useless. You need to utilize it properly to obtain value.

The Sankey Diagram and other visualizations help close the gap between the data you have and the insights you want. These charts provide faster access to more insights, helping you understand the stories and intelligence behind your data.

The goal is to have less data and more insight, meaning you’ve successfully transformed your raw numbers and figures into usable knowledge that helps you make better decisions.

This will greatly minimize your risk of data fatigue or overwhelming spreadsheets. You’ll always have a more intelligent way to analyze your data and uncover the crucial insights to help improve results.

Up To 8 Levels of Insights

The multilevel nature of a Sankey Flow Diagram gives structure to your chart and data, but it also means you have several layers of potential insights to discover.

The ChartExpo Sankey Diagram generator shows you up to 8 levels of data. Each level can represent a stage in a process or system, a category or dimension, a period of time or otherwise.

While most charts only allow you to analyze a single metric and dimension, the Sankey Diagram enables you to pack far more information into the visualization.

When done correctly, this volume of information can reveal a tremendous amount of insight. You can use these insights to make better decisions and improve your results.

Each level will allow you to explore your data from a new angle or stage, making it easier to discover correlations, patterns and other details.

There’s also a lot of value in seeing how your data moves through these different levels. You can see where you’re gaining progress and results and where you’re losing them.

The immediacy of Sankey Diagram insights enables you to quickly stop any potential problems, while simultaneously steering your strategies towards winning opportunities.

Thanks to 8 levels of insights, nothing will go undetected in your data!

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Create Multilevel Sankey Diagrams in Minutes

Sankey Diagrams are exceptionally beneficial because of how much data you can include in a single chart. It’s the perfect way to visually depict complex processes and systems.

Typically, such a robust chart type would require substantial time to create and edit. That’s not the case when you use ChartExpo’s Sankey Diagram generator.

You can create Sankey Diagrams with up to 8 layers in almost no time using ChartExpo’s three-step visualization tool.

When you create a Sankey Diagram in minutes, you save lots of time to put towards other tasks. You can spend less time creating charts and more time analyzing your results to find insights.

It’s more action and less tedious busy work!

The easy charting system also makes it easier for all users to create engaging, practical Sankey Diagrams.

ChartExpo’s Easy Sankey Charting System

The advanced, multilevel structure of a Sankey Diagram may appear overly complex and difficult to create on your own.

If you’re new to charting, you may be looking at Sankey thinking, “This looks incredibly helpful for my spreadsheets, but there’s no way I could create a Sankey Diagram on my own.”

You’re in luck because ChartExpo’s Sankey Diagram maker requires you to perform only three steps.

  1. Select the Sankey Chart from the library of options. There’s a search bar to make it even easier to find this diagram.
  2. Tell ChartExpo what data in your spreadsheet you want to use for each chart component. It’s as easy as entering the column and setting a range.
  3. Click the “Create Chart” button.

Your Sankey plot will appear instantly, giving you immediate access to potential insights. If you need to make any changes, you can enter the charting tool again and edit it.

To create a simple Sankey Diagram, you really only need two columns of data. One column will represent your level and the other to express the different links.

All you have to do is select additional columns to add more levels and dimensions to your chart.

This user-friendly charting system removes any complications you may have had in the past when designing a Sankey visualization.

Codeless Environment is Accessible by all Levels of Users

Most spreadsheet tools, like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, don’t include a Sankey Diagram in their list of available charts. This means you have to code the chart yourself!

Even if you use a Sankey template script, you may run into problems when inputting your own data into the code. If you aren’t familiar with scripting, this may be far out of your comfort zone.

This is why many data users feel a Sankey chart is too advanced for them. One look at the scripts and coding required by other Sankey Diagram creator tools is enough to give you a headache!

On the other hand, ChartExpo includes zero coding or scripting. This makes it the most accessible way to create this Energy Flow Diagram.

No matter your skill level or experience, you can follow the 3 easy steps that ChartExpo asks. Select the Sankey Chart; select the data you want to visualize and press create. That’s how easy it is.

For advanced users who do have the coding experience to make their own Sankey Diagrams, think about how much time you put into these scripts. ChartExpo will undoubtedly save you time, while still allowing you to create the same energy flow charts you’re used to.

Why You Need a Multilevel Sankey Chart

A multilevel Sankey chart isn’t always necessary. If you want to create a simple Sankey Diagram, adding extra levels may only become a distraction.

That said, in the right situations, having these extra levels adds tremendous value to your analysis.

Typical charting options allow you to explore a single metric across one dimension. When you need to include more information in your charts, traditional X and Y graphs fall short.

This is where a multilevel Sankey Diagram shines. It allows you to view additional data in the same chart.

Not only does this add more value to the charts you create, but it also makes your visual analysis more efficient.

If you only rely on basic charts, you’ll have to cross-compare each one to understand your results across each dimension or stage.

Instead of constantly tabbing back and forth between multiple charts, you can simply use a multilevel Sankey chart to put all of that information in the same visualization.

More levels allow you to visualize an entire spreadsheet, rather than a small part of it.

Save Time Making Simple but Effective Sankey Diagrams

With all of the levels and nodes, Sankey Diagrams are not easy to make using traditional methods.

Other Sankey Diagram generators rely on scripts and coding to produce this type of chart. Even if you have the expertise to understand these scripts, it can be painstaking to refine every single component using this coding language.

That’s all the time you could spend analyzing your chart, rather than creating it.

This is why ChartExpo is the best Sankey Diagram maker available. It uses a codeless system that does all the scripting behind the scenes.

All you need to do is select the Sankey chart type, tell ChartExpo what data you want to visualize and press the create button.

Large Sankey Diagrams can look a little chaotic and complicated at first glance, but that doesn’t mean the process to create these visualizations needs to be equally messy.

Despite the simple nature of ChartExpo’s Sankey Diagram builder, it can create charts with up to 8 levels, each with as many nodes as you need to express your data.

Charting is extremely helpful in understanding complex data, especially with a Sankey Diagram. You want to commit all of your time to your analysis, not arduous chart building.

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Optimize Your Flow to Maximize Your Results

Sankey chart insights show you how performance changes across different stages. When you know where performance is lost or won, you can optimize your strategies accordingly.

The speed and ease of using an Energy Flow Diagram gives you access to immediate insights to help you regulate your most vital processes and resources.

The more time you spend controlling your data flow from stage to stage, the more you can control your business and ensure it produces the best results.

Managing your data is an immense challenge because of the size of your spreadsheets and how often the information changes.

To maximize your performance, you have to stay on top of these frequent changes and quickly analyze them to take the appropriate actions.

The Sankey Diagram is pivotal in helping you optimize your results based on how your data is moving.

Demystify Confusing Correlations Using Your Sankey Chart

The organized, multi-layer structure of your Sankey plot allows you to rapidly detect and understand complex patterns and confusing correlations between nodes.

These complex relationships and shifts are challenging to spot in your spreadsheets alone. Traditional chart types (bar, pie, line, etc.) will also sometimes fail to make these correlations apparent.

Even if you’re lucky enough to detect a significant correlation, these tools do little to help you understand it. The Sankey flow Diagram detects and demystifies these crucial relationships in your data.

It has to do with the Sankey layout. The chart structures vast amounts of data in a way that is easy to read. It conveys relationships effectively, even as they change between different levels.

Understanding these relationships is far easier when all of your information is depicted in the same place.

Clearing up the confusion in your spreadsheets makes your data more accessible and engaging. You won’t be left scratching your head every time you attempt to analyze your metrics.

Complex relationships, once properly understood, hold significant insight and value. It’s these under-the-radar patterns that many data users fail to capture, yet they can be the vital link to tie everything together.

Compare Sankey Diagrams to Easily Track Progress

The Sankey Diagram shows a lot of information and even expresses how data changes through multiple stages.

If you structure your Sankey chart so each level shows a different period, you can easily track your progress from the past to the present.

For instance, you could see your progress through Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4. Alternatively, you could use each level to represent the past several years.

Comparing past and present progress helps you establish more accurate benchmarks and determine your goal progress. Are you on track to complete your milestones, or do you need to make changes?

You can also compare past Sankey Diagrams to the ones you make in the future. This easy comparison demonstrates how your flow changed between the two periods.

This reveals vital insights to justify the steps you’ve taken since the first report. You’ll easily recognize if your efficiency has improved or not.

You always want to be improving. Effective data management means learning from your current results and taking steps to increase them in the future.

The Sankey Diagram makes it easy to draw these comparisons and test when you’re making the right improvements to maximize your results.

Find the Most Significant Parts of Your Data

Sankey Diagrams connect each node and level with links. These pathways show you how your data moves.

The size of each arrow or link demonstrates the quantity of that particular item in your data. Thus, a wider link expresses a more substantial flow of data.

This element of link size helps tremendously when it’s time to separate the most significant parts of your spreadsheet from the rest of the data.

Without such an effective tool as the Sankey Diagram, it would be much harder and more time-consuming to locate these major figures. You may have to compare results over several tables or charts to accomplish what a single Sankey chart does.

Why do these significant parts matter? A robust spreadsheet will include lots of data and, even with a Sankey Diagram, it may not be possible to analyze every column and row.

Your goal is to look for the most notable parts. These data items pose the biggest impact on your end results.

By optimizing these parts, you stand to make the most powerful improvements. You want to solve your biggest issues and seize the most valuable opportunities first, right?

Minimize Your Risks and Maximize Your Results

There are two types of data changes that occur: positive or negative. When performance is lost, it’s a negative change. Any event that increases performance is a positive movement.

Both types of changes are useful to detect and monitor. And, in both cases, you’ll want to take some form of action.

Failure to act on a negative change will cause you to lose performance. These negative shifts pose a considerable risk to your results, especially if the problem continues to grow and snowball out of control.

Positive changes, or opportunities, aren’t so dire. However, if you don’t take action, you lose the chance to improve your data performance.

Speed is vital when approaching either type of change in your data. The longer you wait to correct a problem in your data, the more significant the issue becomes. This heightens your risk if you keep ignoring it.

The same is true of positive changes. Opportunities are fleeting. If you don’t act on a trend in the early stages, you may miss the chance altogether.

The sooner you jump on a fresh opportunity, the greater the value of your actions.

With your Sankey Diagram helping you discover the most significant changes in your data, it will be easy to detect harmful and helpful shifts in performance.

As long as you keep an eye on your energy flow chart, you’ll stay ahead of every risk and opportunity.

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$10*

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*pricing starts at $10
per user per month.
Only in-app purchase available
How-to purchase ChartExpo
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