I had lots of fun doing the same chart with different tools, so I was looking for excuse to make more of that.
This time I decided to dive deeper into possibilities of those tools, and create something less usual than a boring stacked bar chart. Radial charts are far from best practices, so if a tool has them, we can consider it to be flexible enough – what hacks are needed to make those in Tableau! May this article serve you as a helpful reference if you’re considering illustrating your article with an awesome chart.
- Data will be prepared and cleaned outside those tools, mostly in R.
- I’ll customize the chart as much as possible to make it look pretty.
- The tool must be fully online, that is why the mighty Tableau is excluded.
- The tool must be code free, that is why the mighty D3 is excluded.
- The tool must be free to use (at least to a reasonable extent), that is why the mighty Excel is excluded.
- The tool must have something beyond pie or donut charts, that is why the mighty Datawrapper is excluded.
- I will not post-process the result with graphic software (except for RAW graphs).
In the end I will rate each tool based on how far can I go with it in terms of charts possible and editing options.
I’ll visualize the data from Pew Research Center about world religions.
Let the fun begin in alphabetical order:
Behold how awesome is this multi-layered radial donut-bar craziness made with Charticulator! And all this was made while pointing and clicking, dragging and dropping! However there is a learning curve about what to click and where to drop, also not everything works smoothly, but still, after some practice charts like this can be made with the ease of Tableau or JMP, because it’s based on the Grammar of Graphics.
Charts made here can be exported as html, png, jpg and svg as well as Power BI template!
I wanted to merge Northern and Western Europes, as well as Central and East Asias to reduce the number of bars and colors, but updating the data is not so straightforward, so I left it like this.
Circos is a software designed to make circular visualizations for genetic data, but they also have an online version which quickly makes Chord diagram.
Its requirements regarding the data input are pretty harsh – no spaces, no parentheses in names, also image configuration options are limited, however, I believe this online version is just for fun, for real visualisations the actual downloaded software should be used.
Anyway, the online version lets you have a png file as well as svg, so it could be post-processed a lot, which makes it a really good option if all you need is a just a one complex Chord diagram.
Flourish probably has all the lesser-used but cooler-looking chart types out-of-the-box: Chords, Sankeys, Streamgraphs, Violins and so on. One type which is specific to Flourish (as much as I know) is this hierarchical bar chart.
The final result can be embedded, downloaded as html, jpg, png or svg.
PlotDB reaches an interesting trade-off when the customizing options for a chart are very limited, but there are tons of templates of various charts you may not even have thought of including “the notorious 3D Pie Chart, best for confusing and deceiving your readers” and curved bar chart, which is “one of the most famous junk chart, yet quite popular in infographics design” as they say.
Sadly, I failed to make this circular chart round.
Plotly is a powerful, versatile and very popular tool for making various types of charts, I just dislike their tooltips. Other charting tools like Displayr even reuse the functionality of Plotly, but those tooltips immediately reveal what’s inside!
Plotly charts can be embedded, exported as json, png, jpg, svg and eps files.
RAW graphs main purpose is to generate an SVG file for further editing, so it has just very basic editing options, I did not follow my own rule I made for this article not to post-process the generated image with the graphic software. Without post-processing, labels were overlapped and unreadable. However the types of charts available are super awesome – RAW graphs may serve well as an additional option for those who want fine editing over crazy types of charts. RAW graphs 2.0 is in the alpha version now (as of October 2020), and I believe it will be even cooler!
This version can export the chart as svg, png and json.
Online chart makers are not suitable for creating unique highly customized charts for enthusiasts of unique highly customized charts. They are made for people to make simple yet dainty charts with reasonable defaults. Those who are into something more sophisticated usually learn to code, use graphic software, hire someone to do things for them, or use more powerful desktop software.
Initially the number of tools analyzed on this article was thought to be 10, but many of them could not offer anything beyond variations of pie or radar (amCharts, Datwrapper, Infogram). Also, Google Data Studio refused to display a sunburst chart made by community due to some “security” reasons, so it’s not here too.
Now, the promised rating of each tool based on how far can I go with it in terms of charts possible and editing options made in Charticulator. But of course I did a difficult to comprehend “drop chart” instead of easier to get non-radial alternatives.
As we clearly see the Charticulator is a winner here, this is the tool to go if you want radial madness. PlotDB has plenty of various charts but just a few options are editable while Circos has only one chart possible with more options editable.