Sunday, March 8, 2020

Bar Charting Part 3: Axis Abuse

This is Part 3 in a series on avoiding the pitfalls of bad charting. Today we'll discuss how axis abuse can make a chart deceptive.

Axis Abuse: What Is It?

Axis abuse happens when your chart's axes (such as the X-axis or Y-axes for a bar chart) don't follow standard conventions. Those conventions include starting your axis at 0, using a proper aspect ratio, and using an expected axis range. Axis abuse is unbelievably common, and that's because it's one of the easiest and most effective ways to distort how a chart is understood.

Axes Should Start at Zero

When charts show amounts with a visual element (such as bar, column, line, area, and pie charts), there's an implicit assumption that we are being shown the whole thing. When it turns out we're only seeing part of the picture, we're being deceived. The way we're all taught to understand charts with axes is that the bottom left corner is zero. When a chart fails to uphold that, we get the wrong idea about what's being shown. Let's look at some examples.

Example 1: Emissions

Look at the chart below. Taking in what the visuals portray, how do you feel about Emission A vs. Emission B? At first glance, Emission B seems about five times worse than Emission A.


The above chart has a flaw: the Y axis starts at 30, not 0, which paints a deceptive picture. Below is the same data, this time with a correct zero baseline. It tells a very different story, doesn't it? Now we see the truth: Emissions B is more like 1.5 times Emissions A.


Example 2: London Times

Here's an example of a misleading chart in the London Times. The chart—and the whole premise of the article—is about how the Times is outselling the competition. The chart visuals communicate that the Times has more than twice the circulation of the Daily Telegraph. Now look at the Y axis: the chart axis begins at 420,000! If it started at zero, the difference between the Times (485K) and the Daily Telegraph (446K) would be hardly noticeable, a non-story.

The Times Has A Massive Lead in Circulation ..or Does It?
source: https://www.statisticshowto.datasciencecentral.com/misleading-graphs/


It is unbelievably common for axis abuse to happen in newspapers and magazines. These are organizations that should certainly know better. Be on your guard!

Example 3: Television Sports Chart

Television news networks and sports networks are just as guilty as print media with axis abuse. Look at the screenshot below from a sports program, where R.A. Dickey's Knuckleball Velocity is made to look like it's half of what it used to be. With an honest baseline of zero the drop from 77.3MPH to 75.3MPH would be barely noticeable.

R. A. Dickey's Knuckleball Isn't What It Used To Be...?

Example 4: Average Male Height Increase Over the Years

The chart below is supposed to show how average male height (aged 21) has increased from the 1870s to the 1970s. It looks pretty astonishing; the visuals convey that men have doubled in height over a century! Once again, we have a dishonest baseline that starts at 155cm instead of 0cm.

My, How You've Grown!

source: https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/daviz/learn-more/chart-dos-and-donts


Example 5: Server Load

Which server load chart below gives you more concern? By now you realize these two charts are driven by the exact same data. The only difference is that the first chart's Y axis starts at 80 while the second starts at 0.


Which Load Chart Concerns You More?
source: https://grafana.com/blog/2019/06/10/how-not-to-fail-at-visualization/

Example 6: Microsoft Edge Performance

One last example to illustrate how common and audacious this practice is. In the gauge charts below, Microsoft is crowing how Microsoft Edge outperformed Chrome and Firefox in a particular benchmark. While the claim is true, these charts are highly misleading. When you consider that Edge (blue gauge) scored 31,786 while Chrome (green) scored 29,619 and Firefox (red) scored 26,876 it's quite clear these gauges do not start at zero. Even worse than the prior examples, they're not even labelled.

Misleading Browser Charts

If we plotted the benchmark data honestly, it would look like this on a column chart:

 A more Honest Comparison

If You Must Show A Partial Axis...

On occasion you may feel you have a valid reason to truncate an axis. If you feel strongly compelled to not show a complete axis, there are responsible ways to depict that. The chart below makes it clear that the bars are truncated.

A Responsible Way to Show a Partial Axis

Chart with Integrity

All sorts of excuses are made for not starting with a zero baseline. There's not enough space. We want to focus in on the interesting part of the chart. People sit too far from the TV to make out the detail. None of these excuses justify the deception, and it is deception, whether intentional or not. You form a conclusion from the visuals long before (or if) you digest the numbers on the chart.

The widespread practice of deceptive charting does not make it okay. Beware this lack of integrity when you view charts, and don't go down this road with your own charts. Always value honesty and accuracy over getting attention.

Don't Deceive With Ranges

Charts can also be deceptive when the amount of data selected is altered to favor a preferred story. Look at the two stock charts below from Yahoo. Which stock would you rather own, the one in red that's descending or the one in green that's on the way up?


Which Stock Would You Rather Own?


In point of fact, these are both AMZN stock charts take at the same time. The only difference is that the first chart was a 1 Day range of data while the second showed a 1 Year of data.

Never pull the wool over your audience's eyes by selecting an unexpected data range, and never leave out important information like what the interval is. There's a reason public companies have to abide by strict rules and report data over careful intervals like quarters.

Don't Omit Intervals

Another way a chart can be deceptive is when you don't have (or don't include) all of the data intervals. The creator of the chart below didn't have data for 2003 or 2004, so it's not on the chart. But that's deceptive, because it makes it look like the data is trending differently than it really is.



The chart below is better because it makes it clear that some of the data is missing. The viewer is less likely to draw an incorrect conclusion about trends.


Use Proper Aspect Ratios 

Yet another built-in assumption we have when we view charts is that they follow a 45-degree slope. When they don't, we can be fooled into seeing an attractive or scary rate change. Look at the charts below, which show the same data but with varying aspect ratios. They certainly convey different emotions, don't they?

Aspect Ratio Changes the Message
source: https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/daviz/learn-more/chart-dos-and-donts

Conclusion

One of the easiest ways to change the message of a chart is by toying with its axes. Axes that don't start at zero mislead because we are seeing only part of amounts in the visuals. Unexpected ranges also mislead because we are seeing less or more of the data than we expect. Improper aspect ratios and missing intervals can deceive us about trends.

Chart makers have a great deal of power. There's a visual contact between chart maker and chart viewer, and as a responsible chart maker you need to be aware of that contract and uphold it.

In Part 4, we'll look at conventions, color, and the use of 3D in charts.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Bad Charting Part 2: Use the Right Chart Type

This is Part 2 in a series on avoiding the pitfalls of bad charting.Today we'll discuss the importance of using the right chart type for what you want to show, and what happens when you get that wrong.

Wrong Chart Type Examples

Before we get how to choose the right chart type, let's see some examples where using the wrong chart type killed the chart's effectiveness. These examples come from the European Environment Agency's Chart Do's and Don'ts site.

Households by Type

Below we see a stacked column chart depicting households by type. Each column totals 100% but is subdivided to break down percentage of various household types. Before going further, do any particular trends jump out at you from this chart?

The Stacked Column Chart is the wrong choice for this datasource: Chart Do's and Don'ts

Now consider the same data below plotted in a line chart. There's a dramatic difference, and now it's easy to see a nosedive in the Married Couples with Children category. In the earlier chart, this was all but unnoticeable. As this chartmaker did, you might make this the chief message of your chart and highlight it.


A Line Chart is a better choice for this data

Specialization in Nordic Labor Markets

In this example, a bubble chart was plotted over a map to show specialization in high-tech manufacturing and/or R&D in Nordic labor markets in 2005 (that's a mouthful). While the use of the map might be useful to someone very familiar with the local geography, the map obscures rather than helps. It's not the simplest way to show the winners and losers.

The Map hinders rather than helps this chart

The simple bar chart below is a lot easier to digest.


A Bar Chart is a better choice for this purpose


These examples show how important it is to use an appropriate chart type.

What is it You Want to Show?

Choosing the right chart type depends on your objective. Why do you want to visualize this data? Do you want to compare something? Show what something is composed of? Show distribution? Show a relationship? Answering this first question will reduce your chart choices from many to a handful.

Once you know your objective, you'll still have several chart types available. You can settle on the right chart type by also considering the number of variables you need to show, whether there are few or many data points, and whether you'll be showing values over time.

A guide such as the Chart Chooser diagram by Dr. Andrew Abela can be helpful. Keep in mind that this is not a definitive list. New chart types arise from time to time and some chart types wax and wane in popularity over time. For example, right now the pie chart has fallen into disfavor in some circles. You might want to prune your options to the chart types your organization is comfortable with.

Chart Chooser

Let's look at these 4 big categories of data visualization and see what makes them tick.

Comparison

In a comparison you have multiple items to compare or multiple datasets to compare. If you need to show exact values, consider a table in place of a chart.

When you have just a few categories a column chart is a good choice. For example, showing responses to a survey question or comparing sales for the last two years.



 Column Chart

When you have many categories or long names, a horizontal bar chart will work better.

Bar Chart

When you have multiple data series per category, a grouped column chart (also known as a grouped bar chart or a clustered bar graph) may work best. For example, imagine you want to break out responses to a survey question not only by the response given but also by age range.

Grouped Column Chart

To show trends over time for continuous data, use a line chart. For example, illustrating how various categories of expenses are trending over time.

Line Chart

Composition

In composition you are revealing what makes up a data set.

To show the composition of something with simple proportions, a pie chart is ideal. They are one of the most widely-understood chart types. Nevertheless there is currently a backlash against pie charts by some so you should carefully consider whether they are a good choice for your audience. You can help the pie chart's reputation by using them properly, that is to show percentages that add up to 100%.

Pie Chart

A donut chart is nothing more than a pie chart with a hole in the center. Any place you can use a pie chart a donut chart would be equally appropriate. One thing a donut chart can do that a pie chart can't do is show multiple data series by arranging multiple concentric rings around each other.


 Donut Chart

When you want to show trends over time combined with part-to-whole composition, you can use an area chart. Area charts have some similarities to line charts but use filled areas below the line. The categories are stacked upon each other instead of all being plotted from the baseline. In Area charts the individual trends are harder to make out. Here's an area chart showing subscription sales over the course of a year, with substrata for students, adults, businesses, and non-profits. We might gain some insights into how school schedules or holidays affect sales.

Area Charts

To show the composition of data across different categories, consider a stacked column chart. In the first chart below, sales revenue of various product categories are decomposed by season.

Stacked Column Chart

When you want to focus on the composition of the data, you can use a stacked column chart and show percentage in the Y-axis. This is sometimes called a Stacked Percent Chart and all columns will be the same height (100%). In the chart below, reusing the same data from the earlier example, apparel revenue percentage is shown, again broken down by season.

Stacked Percent Chart

Relationships

When you want to show how one variable is related to one or more other variables, consider a scatter plot chart or a bubble chart. Both can all be useful for showing suspected connections between the data.

A scatter plot chart is used to analyze the relationship between two variables (one on each axis). The pattern of intersecting points can highlight a possible relationship. The chart below suggests a relationship between the amount of sugar people eat and their likelihood of tooth decay.

Scatter Plot Chart 
source:  FactTank

A bubble chart is much like a scatter plot chart except it can show a third variable, in the size of each bubble (its area, not its diameter). The bubble chart below shows car sales, with price in the Y-axis, units sold in the X-axis, and revenue in in the bubble. We can tell type B generates the most revenue both by the size of the bubble and its placement.

Bubble Chart
source: Infogram.com

While the above charts are well-suited for relationship visualization, it's also possible to show relationships using more common chart types like line, column, and bar charts.

Distribution

Distribution charts show how variables are distributed over time, which can help identify trends and outliers.

Use a scatter plot can show the distribution of two variables. The scatter plot chart below shows Old Faithful geyser eruptions. It shows there are short-wait eruptions and long-wait eruptions.

Scatter Plat showing Distribution
source: Wikipedia

A histogram is another way to show distribution of continuous data. Histograms superficially resemble column charts but the columns have no spacing and indicate frequency, not specific values. The X-axis shows interval ranges and the Y-axis shows number of times values occurred. The histogram below shows the majority of customers wait between 35-50 seconds.


Histogram showing Customer Wait Time

Progress Toward Goals

The bullet graph, a 21st century chart, is a nice compact way to show progress toward a goal. These can be vertical or horizontal, and combine the idea of a thermometer chart with red/yellow/green ranges.



Many Variables

Radar Charts, also called Spider Charts, are useful when you have many variables. They let you plot a dozen or more variables and derive a shape from them. Comparing shapes then shows similarity.

In the chart below, attributes of the Overwatch League are plotted (blue shape). On top of that, attributes of the Twitch community are plotted (orange shape). The chart shows similarities in the two shapes, which helps make the case that Twitch is a good streaming home for the Overwatch League.

Radar Chart

source:  the eSports Group


Years back when I worked at Microsoft, we would use radar charts in developer usability studies. We would chart shapes for the developers we tested and compare them to what our APIs provided.

Summary

There are many kinds of charts because there are many purposes for visualizing data. We've reviewed some examples of how the wrong chart type obscures rather than clarifies. We learned how to choose the right chart type for your objective and reviewed some of the more common chart types.

In Part 3, we'll look at how Axis Abuse can make your charts misleading.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Bad Charting Part 1: Charts vs. Infographics

In this post I'll share tips on responsible charting and how to avoid common pitfalls that can result in misleading business graphics. We'll do that by looking at examples of poor charts and pointing out the principles that were violated. In this first post, we'll make the distinction between charts and infographics.

A Bad Chart about Why Charts are Bad

Charts: They're All Around Us

Charts are all around us. Many of us rely on them and create them in our work. Dashboards abound in business and billions of dollars are spent annually on business intelligence products. Charts are a regular output of stock markets, scientists, researchers, statisticians, and governments. They're all over social media, web sites, and television. Charts are part of life.

Just as publishing came to the masses via word processing, desktop publishing, and blogging the same thing is happening with charting. Charts can now be created in just a few clicks from office productivity software, charting apps, and cloud services. Marketing campaigns frequently leverage infographics in their messaging.

There are good charts, bad charts, and pretender charts. We live in a time where honest communication is in short supply. There's a lot of deliberate misinformation online and charts are often a vehicle for delivering it. An even larger problem is charts that are unintentionally misleading. That comes from people who don't know the fundamentals of good charting, don't understand their source data well, or just copy-and-paste from somewhere else. These days, charts are created for the most trivial subjects or to express humor in social media posts.

I wonder why that would be...
source: https://imgur.com/uCbnAaf


Just What is a Chart Anyway?

Before we go any further we should define what a chart (or graph) is.

A chart is a data visualization. That is, a graphical representation of some numerical data. It's not possible to create a good chart from poor data, so starting with data you understand is critical. You have a duty to select appropriate and complete source data. You have a duty to portray that data responsibly. You have a duty to provide reference to the source data.

A chart is also a type of content, which means you will make decisions that affect how the chart is perceived by viewers. Your chart tells a story or carries a message, even if you don't intend it to. Be aware that some readers will take your content at face value.

A chart is also data reduction, which obligates you to reduce the data in a responsible way. Your viewer should understand how the data was arrived at.

Finally, a chart is a picture. We all know a picture is worth 1,000 words. Your visual choices imply underlying information. The emotion your chart triggers in your viewer is strong than any figures on the page or text.

Charting, then, is a great responsibility. You are communicating about data that matters greatly to somebody. It needs to be truthful and clear if you want to maintain a reputation for trustworthiness. As we shall see, not everyone takes these responsibilities seriously.

Charts are not Infographics

One of the reasons we have rampant problems with charts is the confusion between a business chart and an infographic. An infographic is "a collection of imagery, charts, and minimal text that gives an easy-to-understand overview of a topic." Infographics often contain charts, and they simply aren't created with the same rigor that business charts are. Let's look at a chart from an infographic:


The above chart is so bad it made Business Insider's list of the Worst Charts of All Time. We can note some deficiencies in this chart:
  1. It has no title, but we can intuit we are being shown sales revenue for fast food restaurants. 
  2. The Y axis isn't labelled, but we can intuit billions of dollars from the chart value labels. 
  3. Columns are replaced with corporate logos, and that's a problem. Look at Burger King ($11.3B in sales) vs. McDonald's ($41B). Is the McD logo 4 times the BK logo? No, it's more like 12 times the area. The "clever" use of logos is a bad idea because it breaks the visual contract with the chart reader.
  4. The data set isn't identified. This clearly isn't all restaurants but we aren't told the criteria for the ones that are included. 
  5. The time frame isn't identified either. Which year's sales revenue are we being shown?
  6. The chart values are an apples and oranges comparison, because the country of Afghanistan is included in the mix.
Below you can see our chart is part of a larger infographic from Princeton University. Now we can see the chart's purpose in support of a message about how Starbucks and McDonald's are global hubs that connect some of the earth's wealthiest and poorest countries. The deficiencies we noted would likely be explained away by the designer as justified in getting the message out in a compelling way. That's the problem with infographics: they're a marketing tool, not a business communication tool. They each have their place but you don't want to confuse them.


Here's another infographic below, this one showing the mobile games market volume by language. Note the sizes of the bubbles. Chinese is $15B and English is $8B, but the Chinese bubble is not 2 times the area of the English bubble, it's closer to 4 because both height and width were multiplied by the 2. We saw this same error earlier with the use of logos and here it is again. The makers of infographics are usually far more concerned with getting your attention than accuracy.

 

Here are some of the important differences between a business chart and an infographic:


An infographic is often designed to push a message and includes data that supports the message. A business chart has a message too, but there's a difference. In your business chart, you had some reason to show the data you did in the way you did. There may well be an important revelation you want to communicate but the viewer may discover additional insights from the data being visualized. The business chart doesn't force a conclusion, it says "look at this. look what's happening here."

Don't make the mistake of using an infographic when you should have a business chart. In an infographic, the excitement comes from the design and messaging. In a business chart, the excitement comes from the data.

Everyone Says So

Why are infographics so popular? Well, one reason commonly given is shown (fittingly) by the infographics below: the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text!




You'll find thousands of infographics and designer/marketing web sites promoting this fact. Now that you've learned this fun fact, you can forget it, because it's not true!


source: visme.co

This is a big, big problem today. People see something interesting, especially something that supports the story they want to promote, and they pass it on without a second thought. Using or passing on unverified information has no place in business or in your charts.

When is a Chart Warranted?

Before you embark on creating a chart, ask yourself whether you have a good reason for having one. If the only reason for your chart is to have something pretty, I suggest you reconsider. Charts do make sense in your documents and presentations when any of the following are true:
  • The chart will help your audience understand the data better .
  • When the shape of the data contains your message.
  • When you want to highlight or reveal something that would not be evident from a table of figures or wall of text.
  • When the chart accompanies and augments a narrative or data set (not replaces it).
A chart should never be a replacement for its source data. Either include that original data or provide a link to it.

Characteristics of a Good Chart

A good chart will have these characteristics:
  1. Accurately show facts.
  2. Grab the reader's attention.
  3. Show trends or changes.
  4. Be clear and easy to read.
  5. Have a title and axis labels.
  6. Identify units for values.
  7. Use colors to show differences but not rely solely on color.
  8. Use white space around graphic elements and text for readability. 
  9. Follow established conventions.
In Part 2, we'll look at how to choose the right chart type and what happens when you get it wrong.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Chicken Sandwich Showdown

This is my comparison of the Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich vs. Popeyes Chicken Sandwich; what historians are sure to call the defining question of our times.

The Uproar

Unless you're been fast asleep in the hen house, you're no doubt aware that 2019 had quite the brouhaha over Chicken Sandwiches. I consider myself above such nonsense. Thus, I did not go near a Chick-Fil-A nor a Popeyes Chicken during the ensuing Twitter Feud, massive crowds, car wrecks, stabbings and other violence. In addition to all that, it's clear from social media that some people hold rabidly-strong opinions about favoring one establishment over the other because of their misguided political leanings. Sigh. This is not the way to get along, America.

I said I consider myself above such nonsense, but I am curious. I have a detached-observer-technologist's interest in watching social media turn humanity into lemmings, driven by FOMO of whatever minor phenomenon becomes viral. Truly the majority of the US population can no longer be considered sane nor polite. Nevertheless, now that things have calmed down slightly, I thought I would try each sandwich and make a non-agenda-driven attempt to determine which was the better sandwich.

Prior Chicken Sandwich Experience

The Popeyes sandwich is the newcomer that sparked the Chicken Sandwich Wars, but it's not quite accurate that Chick-Fil-A invented the chicken sandwich as some claim. I know this because I have been eating chicken sandwiches since the 70's. In my teens and early twenties, my brother and I tended to hang out a lot at the local Burger King. One of my favorite things to get there was the BK Chicken Sandwich: an oblong processed chicken patty on a bun with mayonnaise. This sandwich was always a gamble because the amount of mayo applied by the fast food worker was the defining factor in whether the sandwich was a success. Today we set our sights a lot higher: both of the modern contenders for the Chicken Sandwich throne are superior in every way.

In more modern times, I continue to love chicken sandwiches, but I don't usually buy them from fast food restaurants. My wife makes amazing Cajun Chicken Club Sandwiches and my family loves them. It's not possible that some fast food offering will ever unseat them from being my favorite.

Prior to this showdown I'd never had the Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich nor the Popeyes chicken sandwich, but I have had other food from both places. My family likes Chick-Fil-A a lot, and I'm partial to their nuggets, sauces, and excellent Mac and Cheese. I did try the spicy chicken sandwich a few years back and found it too hot for my liking.

I started frequenting Popeyes when I did consulting in Washington D.C. for a year. I'm partial to Popeyes for their boneless buffalo wings, sauces, and excellent Cajun fries. The town I live in now has a local Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes Chicken, fittingly across the street from each other.

Do I enter this judging with a bias? I do love Cajun food, and that may give me a slight inclination toward Popeyes. I'm doing my best to be unbiased. As a manager I have had to take training at work on Unconscious Bias and I am counting on that to help me in this taste test.

Purchasing a Chicken Sandwich at Chick-Fil-A

At 4:28pm on a Saturday, I pull into the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru. This was built recently and is new and clean. The drive-thru has a dual lane, and in prior visits when things have been really busy Chick-Fil-A staff are out working the cars with tablets. Right now is less busy though. There are half a dozen cars ahead of me in the drive-thru.

When asked for my order, I am greeted by a friendly voice. I ask for a Chicken Sandwich. "Regular or Deluxe?" I am asked. I automatically say Deluxe but later wonder if that makes the comparison unfair. I am then asked if I want any sauces. I'm not sure if the sandwich comes with a sauce or not so I ask for some Chick-Fil-A sauce. I also order a large Mac and Cheese because it's really good.

I receive my food at 4:40pm. Elapsed time in the drive-thru: 12 minutes. I was charged $4.99 for the sandwich. On to Popeyes!

Purchasing a Chicken Sandwich at Popeyes

I pull into the Popeyes single-lane drive-thru at 4:45pm and there are no cars ahead of me.

As Popeyes' sandwich is the newcomer, and is a hit, they understandably are working to capitalize on it. A poster on the outside of the building proclaims "I'm Back", referring to the sandwich being sold out for weeks after its pilot introduction.


When asked for my order, I am greeted by a friendly voice. I ask for a Chicken Sandwich. I also order Cajun fries because they're really good. At the payment window, I am asked if I want a sauce. Unsure if the sandwich comes with a sauce, I ask for Mardigras Mustard sauce.

I receive my food at 4:50p. Elapsed time in the drive-thru: 5 minutes. I was charged a combined amount for the sandwich plus fries, but looking online the sandwich alone is $3.99.

I head home to taste both sandwiches. On the drive home, it smells really good in the car.

Taste Test: Chick-Fil-A Deluxe Chicken Sandwich

It is now 5:00pm, 20 minutes after getting my sandwich. The Chick-Fil-A bag is perfect and unwrinkled. Inside, the Chick-Fil-A sandwich comes in a container box. I like this kind of packaging because it provides a place for fries, if you're having fries.


Opening the lid reveals the sandwich which has an appealing look. Fast food often fails to come close to the pictures used in ads and posters, but this looks attractive. I again wonder if I've done the comparison a disservice by ordering the Deluxe version of the sandwich, which adds cheese, lettuce, and tomato.


A few bites in, I'm enjoying the sandwich but have realized it doesn't come with a sauce. I spread some Chick-Fil-A sauce on the bun and continue on. I could in fact have asked for any of a dozen sauces; sauces at Chick-Fil-A are free (ahem) unlike Popeyes which is a miser about giving you any extra sauces.

The bun is just what I want: soft, but not so soft that it gets squished and doesn't survive the length of the meal. I find the chicken moist and delicious. I love the thin crunchy breading on the outside.

I finish my sandwich and think, "that was a very good chicken sandwich."

Taste Test: Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

The Popeyes bag is in sad shape. Although I've come to appreciate the food at Popeyes Chicken, the restaurant itself always seems run-down and the bag exemplifies the feeling. It's in stark contrast to the tight ship that is Chick-Fil-A. But on to the sandwich. The sandwich is in a foil bag that loudly proclaims "love that chicken (sandwich)."


Opening the foil bag reveals the sandwich which looks a little different than I am expecting. After a few bites, I realize I am holding the sandwich upside down and I correct matters. That is why the picture below shows a half-eaten sandwich. Even so, the sandwich looks a lot less like advertisement pictures than the Chick-Fil-A sandwich did. In fact, it looks like the sandwich was dropped and stepped on.


While the sandwich had a kind of squished appearance out of the bag, the sandwich is good and I am enjoying it. It comes with a mayo so I am not needing to add a sauce. But that's okay, the Mardigras Mustard sauce will be delicious with my Cajun fries later on. Did I mention that Popeyes is a miser when it comes to sauces?

The brioche bun is delightful and survives the meal. I like the chicken, which is juicy, but I expected the Cajun flavor to be more prominent. It is very different from the Chick-Fil-A chicken: the buttermilk batter is reminiscent of what you would find on fried chicken. The biggest thing I notice about the chicken, though, is how much of it there is. There is definitely more chicken on the Popeyes sandwich. This is not to say that the Chick-Fil-A sandwich didn't have enough chicken.

I finish my sandwich and think, "that was a very good chicken sandwich."

Which One Wins?

It's at this point that I'm expected to declare a winner, but as I finish the second sandwich I am at a loss to pick a favorite. They were both good, but nothing pushes me toward one over the other. Which one would I like to have again? At the moment, neither! I have just finished a double meal and I am full. Really, it's too close to call. If I was marooned on a desert island and you told me I could have either sandwich, I would close my eyes and say "Surprise me."

Conclusions:

1. Both places offer an excellent chicken sandwich.
2. My wife's Cajun Chicken Sandwiches remain #1 in my heart.
3. If it's a Sunday, go to Popeyes. Chick-Fil-A is closed.
4. If you're going to photograph the food, I'd go with Chick-Fil-A.
5. If a lower price or more food for the price is your main concern, Popeyes has the edge.
6. If you're a lover of sauces, go Chick-Fil-A.
7. These are just chicken sandwiches, not reasons for a new Civil War or acts of felony violence.

There you have it. You really can't go wrong with either sandwich, and there are now enough sandwiches for everybody... so your chances of getting one without violence and name calling are excellent. All you militant Chicken-Twitter people can just chill. Can't we all get along?