Data Visualisation: What is D3?

by | Aug 21, 2014

d3 pic
If you think someone may be slightly dyslexic when you hear them talking about D3 – this blog is for you.
D3 (or D3.js) is a brand name and stands for Data-Driven Documents. It’s a JavaScript library that helps you “bring your data to life”, according to the D3 website. D3 uses JavaScript to create interactive, browser-based visualisations, driven by data. It’s one of the most powerful tools used for data visualisation.
What is JavaScript?
JavaScript is a programming language whose most common use is to add client-side behaviour to HTML pages. It is placed inside an HTML document and provides levels of interactivity to web pages that are not achievable with simple HTML.
Not to be confused with Java, the more general purpose programming language, Java and JavaScript are similar in the same way a car and carpet are similar.
How does D3 work?
D3 is not its own language but an open source library of JavaScript code. It enables developers to pick the basic functionality or design they are looking for and customise the code accordingly. For those new to JavaScript there is a significant learning curve required – as I’m currently discovering!
Why should you care? 
Modern data visualisation has been around for years but is only now beginning to be appreciated in a world of Big Data. As an industry, up until now we have been so focused on what to do with all the data we collect – how to build models to gain analytical insight. Data visualisation is playing a huge role in how that insight is understood and acted upon. These visualisation tools need to be able to accommodate data increasing in size, and an audience that wants nothing less than to be able to pick up their data and play with it. Watch this space!
Some of my favourite D3 examples
Here are a few of my favourite D3 examples:
This makes my personal circle art look like child’s play.
This is an example of the kind of interactivity you could have with your own data.
This looks like its development is still in the early stages but the music lover in me likes it.

This is a great way to visualise fashion week.
Keep it colourful – KGB.

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