5 online tools in data visualization playground


While building up an analytics dashboard, one of the major decision points is regarding the type of charts and graphs that would provide better insight into the data. To avoid a lot of re-work later, it makes sense to try the various chart options during the requirement and design phase. It is probably a well known myth that existing tool options in any product can serve all the user requirements with just minor configuration changes. We all know and realize that code needs to be written to serve each customer’s individual needs.

To that effect, here are 5 tools that could empower your technical and business teams to decide on visualization options during the requirement phase. Listed below are online tools for you to add data and use as playground.

1)      Many Eyes:
Many Eyes is a data visualization experiment by IBM Research and the IBM Cognos software group. This tool provides option to upload data sets and create visualizations including Scatter Plot, Tree Map, Tag/Word cloud and geographic Map plots.

For further advanced options, IBM offers Cognos product family for the enterprise customers.

2)      Circos :
Circos provides brilliant circular visualizations for exploring relationships between objects or positions. As part of its online utility, data set can be uploaded to generate visual representations and can be saved in online images.

Circular representations are useful when connections between objects are difficult to organize on a linear layout. This form of representation is also sometimes attributed as a ‘greedy layout’ since it tends to pack most data within the same page area. Also, it tends to appeal the narrower field of vision and therefore makes it a compelling option beyond the usual genomic studies use case.
 

Other libraries and tools which are known to support circular representation include D3.js and Datameer.


3)      Google Chart Tools :
From Google stable, Chart Tools has its usual Google usability stamp. It provides a customizable gallery of charts which are HTML5/SVG compliant. Further, it allows you to connect to a variety of data sources.

One can go to the online playground, paste in data in the script console and see output charts in real time. Some of the interesting charts options that one would like to explore include Gauge and Candlestick chart.

Another Google variant known as Google Fusion tables is also available as Chrome browser application.


4)      Color Brewer :

This is not a chart generating tool but rather a tool to help you decide color scheme for the charts. If it sounds trivial, then ask a data analyst on how he scratches his head for multi class data representation and how much he frets when he needs to take a print out for CEO on a monochrome printer.

Color Brewer is a diagnostic tool for “evaluating the robustness of individual color schemes”. It provides you option to design a color scheme with 3 broad categories:
(i) Sequential schemes – for ordered data that progress from low to high.
(ii) Diverging schemes - equal emphasis on mid-range critical values and extremes at both ends of the data range
(iii) Qualitative schemes - hues are used to create the primary visual differences between classes best suited for representing nominal or categorical data

Kuler from Adobe is another useful online tool for checking color schemes.

5)      Mr. Data Converter:
Mr.Data Converter is a simple online utility created by Shan Carter which helps to convert CSV or tab delimited data to web friendly formats including HTML, XML, JSON.  It is quite a handy utility for which source code is available on GitHub.




A few notes on these online tools:
-  It is possible your browser may not support large data sets in memory and may crash across.
- You would require Java and/or Flash enabled in your browser.

For further integration with these tools, refer to the additional API or scripts that these tools offer. Beyond these online tools, there are other highly useful libraries and desktop utilities also available across for download. For now, keep churning data and keep playing.

________________________________________________________
image source: all images taken from tool links mentioned above