“Interactive Data Visualization for the Web: An Introduction to Designing with D3″ by Scott Murray; O’Reilly Media

Data in its native form is quite dull, typically hundreds or thousands of pieces of text or numbers. When presented in this raw form, or in tabulated form it is difficult to interpret for anyone accept experts. Data visualisation provides a way to present information in an interesting and informative manner. You can you professional tools such as SPSS or Excel to create data visualisations, but, along with the price, these tools have limitations on the options they have for producing visualisations and export of static images. An alternative approach is create data visualisations on the web using a javascript library such as D3. Using D3 you can create highly customised, dynamic, and interactive data visualisations to reach a wide audience with only a little experience of web development or data visualisation. This book provides a gentle introduction to web development technologies that provide a grounding for using the D3 javascript library. These web technologies include HTML, DOM, CSS, SVG, and Javascript. The book continues with step by step instructions on how to download the D3 library, and how to set up a basic template project and folder. From here information is provided on how to format and import data into an html file using D3 so that you can start developing your own visualisations.

Each chapter builds upon the knowledge learnt in the previous chapters to demonstrate how to create simple to more complex and more interactive data visualisations. There are many ways to create visualisations using D3, but the book explores simple but powerful methods to create visualisations and to add interactivity. The earlier chapters create simple elements, and then go on to create bar charts with all the elements you would expect including bars, labels, scales,  axes, and colours. Other visualisations include scatter plots, pie charts, stacks, force layouts, and geomapping. Interactivity in the form of changing colours, changing, adding, removing, and updating the data, movement and animation, transitions, tooltips, and randomising data. The final chapter discusses various options for exporting the visualisations for use in other documents.

This book is very easy to read and to follow, and clearly explains everything from the basics to more advanced techniques. All the code examples are available as downloads, which is handy for seeing the effects described, and provide a starting point for your own visualisations. There are limited published resources for using D3, so the appendix provides a reading list for further study including websites and relevant twitter users to help you find example projects and future developments. I would recommend this book for anyone who is thinking of sharing data visualisations on the web, or who want to create their own custom visualisations for their own work, particularly students and researchers who want to add something more interesting to their research than the same old charts out of Excel. I intend to give D3 a go for visualising my own research data in the future!

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