Review: Data visualization using Javascript by Stephen A. Thomas

Data visualization is becoming an increasingly important field in web development. The ability to take complex data and present it in a clear and easily understood manner can be the difference between readers engaging with your content or just passing on by. If you’ve got something important to say, you need to consider how best to present your data.

Charts can be prepared manually, or cut and pasted from tools like Excel. However, a better option and, for dynamic data, possibly the best option is to process the data before it is displayed on your website or even a live process to update charts continually. This can be achieved using Javascript but learning how to do it can take a lot of time. This is where Stephen Thomas’ book comes in.

Data visualization using Javascript covers a wide range of visualizations – from simple bar and pie charts through to dynamic charts and specialist choices such as heatmapping using Patrick Wied’s heatmap.js library.

The biggest problem I find with many IT books is that, while the information they contain can be good, the writing style is not great. Descriptions can be unclear, difficult to understand, or just plain boring. Not great if you want to learn at a pace – particularly for complex subjects such as data visualization.

Thomas’ book is different. It is clearly written in an engaging style. While not for HTML/Javascript novices, it is easy to use and contains clear, easily understood examples of visualizing data sets. Even when it tackles the more opaque D3.js library it is easy to follow. Reading this book will save you an awful lot of time and frustration.

 

Data visualization examples

Simple Bar Chart

Bar chart
Bar chart built with flotr2.js

Simple Pie Chart

Pie chart
Pie chart built with flotr2.js

Line Chart

Line chart built with flotr2.js
Line chart built with flotr2.js

Sparkline

Sparkline built using jquery.sparkline.js
Sparkline built using jquery.sparkline.js

Heatmap

Heatmap example
Heatmap example built using heatmap.js overlaid on a background image

 

The examples are primarily written in vanilla Javascript, though some also use jQuery. Full versions are available for all the visualization source code, accessible through links in the electronic versions of the book or by going to Thomas’ GitHub account.

You can buy the book in softback or Kindle format from Amazon by using this link.

There is also a free to view web-based version at Stephen Thomas’ website.

 

Conclusion

A clear, easy to use guide to data visualisation using vanilla javascript, jQuery and custom JS libraries.

10/10

2 Responses

  1. Thanks Mark I have been searching for a decent JS dataviz guide . The others I found were confusing this book is exactly what i need

    1. No probs Will. Glad it’s been of some use. I was quite surprised how well written it is compared to the nonsense IT books that some publishers churn out 🙂

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