651.288.7000 info@intertech.com

Top JavaScript Charting Libraries for Data Visualization

by | Aug 20, 2019

With the rise of big data and companies collecting more data than ever before, it’s time to start thinking about how to use and represent that data. As a result, data visualization has seen massive growth as a field. Moreover, as data science rises in popularity, sharing the results of statistical inquiries is increasingly important. In this post, we’ll look at the top tools for online data visualization: JavaScript charting libraries.

Data Visualization Using JavaScript

JavaScript has become so popular for data visualization because it allows for dynamic rendering in the browser. Our graphs and charts don’t have to be static images anymore. Now, they can include animations and tooltips for more information. Furthermore, they can be interactive, allowing users to click to dive deeper into the data that interests them.

Luckily, there are a number of options when it comes to JavaScript charting libraries for data visualization. Many of these options are free and open source.

1. D3.js

D3 is probably the first tool that comes to mind when talking about data visualization with JavaScript. It is an incredibly powerful tool for ingesting, modeling, and displaying data. D3 is behind many of the most popular data visualization websites in the world. With over 85k stars on GitHub, it’s fair to say that D3 is a major tool used across the internet.

However, D3 is also known for its steep learning curve. It’s really an entire framework for working with data. As a result, there’s a lot to learn, and it can be frustrating to work with at the beginning. Fortunately, there’s a great community and excellent tutorials available to help you learn D3.

The payoff is huge if you get over the initial learning curve. D3 supports more chart types and gives greater flexibility than any other library out there. There’s excellent tooling for in-browser debugging. Also, there are tons of examples and code snippets you can borrow from. The best part is it’s completely free to use, and it’s the most powerful tool on the market.

2. Chart.js

If you just need a simple chart, then D3 might be overkill. Perhaps you want something that’s easy to use and well styled. Enter Chart.js, a simple, flexible alternative. You can produce beautiful, clear charts in all the common chart types with a few lines of code.

Chart.js is also open source and free to use. There is also a great community, with support, documentation, and plugins for added features. Chart.js is the perfect basic solution for developers who just need a quick chart implemented well without any fancy requirements.

3. Chartist.js

Another simple, flexible library is Chartist.js. It supports even fewer chart types than Chart.js — just line, bar, or pie. However, for 80% of use cases Chartist is more than adequate. In return, Chartist offers a really simple development experience and beautiful visuals, including animation. Chartist graphs are also responsive for cross-platform viewing. Chartist is also open source and free to use.

4. Google Charts

If you just need a chart with minimal customizability, then Google Charts is a good option. Especially if the chart may get updates from people who are only familiar with spreadsheets. One potential drawback is the project is not open source. While you’re free to use the library, you can’t self-host the JavaScript files. Nevertheless, Google Charts is the same library used across Google, so you’re sure to have stability, backward compatibility, and cross-browser support.


5. FusionCharts

The only paid option on our list is FusionCharts. While it’s free for non-commercial use, any business using it will have to pay at least $500 (one developer license). Still, that price may be worth it for the out of the box functionality you get. FusionCharts is much more highly customizable than any of the other options, except D3. However, it still manages to be easy to use and avoids D3’s steep learning curve. It also has pre-built integrations for modern frontend and backend frameworks. Customer support and documentation are top-notch as you’d expect from a paid product.

Choosing a JavaScript Charting Library

If you’re looking for a simple-to-implement solution, check out Google Charts or Chartist. Need a little more customizability? Chart.js should do the trick in most cases. If you have a highly customized chart in mind or unique data structure, you’ll need to look at D3 (free, high time to startup) or FusionCharts (paid, faster and more intuitive).

About Intertech

Founded in 1991, Intertech delivers software development consulting and IT training to Fortune 500, Government and Leading Technology institutions. Learn more about us. Whether you are a developer interested in working for a company that invests in its employees or a company looking to partner with a team of technology leaders who provide solutions, mentor staff and add true business value, we’d like to meet you.