top of page

Why and Why Not to Use JavaScript Graphing Libraries to Create Custom Graphs for Web Applications

Updated: Jan 18


Introduction



JavaScript is widely used for building front-end web applications. It’s an open-source programming language that runs in almost any modern browser, including mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Graphs are a common type of user interface element often used to present data in a visual way. They can be used to present user information such as profiles, interests, friends, job history, and other details so users are able to make informed decisions when engaging with an application.

There exist various JavaScript libraries that can render an interactive and dynamic graph for your web application. These types of JavaScript libraries can be referred to as JavaScript Graphing Libraries. In this blog post, you will learn about the advantages and disadvantages of using JavaScript-based graphing libraries to build custom graphs for your web applications.


What is a JavaScript Graphing Library?


A JavaScript library is a collection of code that can be reused in web applications. A graphing library is essentially a set of code designed to be used to create graphs. These libraries include charting components like legends, titles, data labels, and any other elements that would be used to create graphs. Moreover, a graphing library can be used to create different types of graphs such as line-graph, bar-graph, pie-chart, etc. Once you have built your custom graphs, you can then easily publish them online and allow your customers to consume them via a web application.


Brief About Different JavaScript Graphing Libraries


There are numerous JavaScript Libraries that can be used to create different types of visual graphs and then render them directly on a web application. Graphs rendered through JavaScript can be highly interactive and can also visualize dynamic data.

In this section, we will only discuss the 3 JavaScript Graphing Libraries that we considered for the implementation of the Magic Quadrant Graph.


Google Charts


Google Charts provides a way to visualize data on a web application. It has a number of ready-to-use chart types. The most common way to use Google Charts is with simple JavaScript that you embed in your web page.

Google Charts is easy to use and offers a large variety of different types of graphs. But creating custom graphs with specific design requirements is not an easy task while using Google Charts. Google Charts also does not provide offline access for its charts.


Plotly.JS


Plotly.js is a high-level, declarative charting library and ships with over 40 chart types, including 3D charts, statistical graphs, and SVG maps. It is built on top of d3.js and stack.gl.

Plotly is a very rich library and has outstanding documentation, including a tutorial for each of the chart types. Plotly can render highly dynamic and interactive plots but its library is a bit heavy and can reduce the load speed of your web application.


Chart.JS


Chart.js is an HTML5-based JavaScript library for creating animated, interactive, and customizable charts and graphs. Chart.js provides a set of frequently used chart types, plugins, and customization options.

Chart.js is a fairly light library and also has an option for custom plugins which makes it highly customizable.


Advantages of Using JavaScript Graphing Libraries to Create Graphs for Web Applications


Easy to Integrate into Web Applications


JavaScript Graphing Libraries are very easy to integrate into your web application. They can be embedded in the head of your web pages or added as a <script> tag. Moreover, they can be integrated using simple AJAX requests. That means it is easy to build graphs using these libraries. For example, Chart.js library renders the graph in a canvas HTML tag which can be styled and placed anywhere on the page using CSS properties.


All-in-One Solution with Minimal Coding


Another advantage of using JavaScript Graphing Libraries is that they offer an all-in-one solution. You don’t have to code for a variety of graph types. With these libraries, you can create graphs like bar charts, line charts, scatter charts, and maps with minimal coding as the libraries already have a sample ready for most types of Graphs. That means you can focus on business logic and don’t have to worry about building custom graphs. For example, Google Chart gallery provides a large number of ready-to-use chart types.


Highly Interactive


The graphs created using JavaScript Graphing Libraries are very interactive. They come with features like a tooltip on markers, animations while rendering and interacting, a custom toolbar, and many other features that can be utilized to present data in a very beautiful and visual manner. For example, Graphs created using Plotly come with a native toolbar that can be used to zoom, select and pan any part of the graph.


Customizability


The graphs created using JavaScript Graphing Libraries are very customizable. Every element of the graph like markers, axes, tooltip, and animations are customizable when creating graphs using JavaScript Graphing Libraries. For example, Chart.js has many plugins that can customize the existing elements of the graph or can be used to add new elements to the graph.


Disadvantages of Using JavaScript Graphing Libraries to Create Graphs for Web Applications


Steep Learning Curve


JavaScript Graphing Libraries are simple to use when you just want to show simple data visualized through a sample pre-built graph. But as soon as you are faced with complex data and want to visualize it in a manner that makes it presentable, it becomes difficult to do it without having deep knowledge of JavaScript and of the specific library you have chosen for visualizing the graph. For example, Chart.js is highly customizable but requires sufficient knowledge of JavaScript to implement these customizations.


Vulnerability to Hacking


Another disadvantage of using JavaScript Graphing Libraries is that they are vulnerable to hacking attacks. Most of these disadvantages are related to security issues and the fact that they require you to add script tags to your web application. Since they require the inclusion of script tags, it makes them vulnerable to security threats where hackers can inject malicious code into your web application through these tags.


Slow Response


A final and significant disadvantage of JavaScript Graphing Libraries is that they are slow. That means that they take more processing power to render graphs. That can slow down the performance of your web application. Page Speed is a very important factor for consumer-facing web applications and integration of Graphs created using JavaScript Graphing Libraries can significantly reduce the page speed of your web application.



Image of a Graph Rendered Using Chart.JS Graphing Library


Conclusion


JavaScript Graphing libraries can be a great way to create custom graphs for your web applications. However, you have to be careful while choosing a graphing library. The best way to do so is to know when it makes sense to use a graphing library and when you should avoid them.

You have to analyze the use case of your graph and weigh the pros and cons of using JavaScript Graphing Libraries for creating that graph. Then you have to finally decide on whether it will be viable to use JavaScript Graphing Libraries for your web application or some other way like using a static image graph will be sufficient.

There are certain scenarios when it makes sense to use a JavaScript graphing library. In these scenarios, it can be a good fit. However, there are other use cases where it can be a bad idea. That means you need to be careful while choosing a graphing library.

If you finally decide to use JavaScript Graphing Libraries for rendering a graph in your web application, you can refer to our blog post that explains how to create a graph using JavaScript Graphing Libraries.


By Hrithik Chowdhry

9 views0 comments
bottom of page