Getting Started with Data Visualization in React

A primary goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and efficiently via statistical graphics, plots and information graphics. Numerical data may be encoded using dots, lines, or bars, to visually communicate a quantitative message.Effective visualization helps users analyze and reason about data and evidence. It makes complex data more accessible, understandable and usable.


TL;DR: Use data visualization too:

  1. Communicate information clearly
  2. Visual communicate a quantitative message
  3. Help users analyze and reason about data and evidence
  4. It makes complex data more usable

Good and Bad Examples

A pie chart that shows the 100 most active “tweeters” of a particular hashtag? Terrible visualization. Measuring it against our criteria, it doesn’t effectively communicate a message, or enable any type of reasoning about the data — other than to reason that 100 is far to many data points for a pie chart.

Almost never use a pie chart -everyones stats teacher

A tree chart with shows the worlds defense budgets? Great visualization. It is clear and understandable, and illustrates a message to the viewer.

A map of the 2012 Electoral College results by state? I believe this is an excellent visualization. It shows not only the states votes, but shows the weight each state has in the electoral college. It is accessible to the viewer.

A chart of the 100 most popular websites per month? At a quick glance, which is most popular? Is it the largest, or closest to the center? Which is the largest anyway? This is an ineffective visualization.

Technologies to visualize data on the web

There are three ways the data can be presented/visualized on the web

  1. Images: Visualization is designed in a tool like photoshop, illustrator, or tableu
  2. CSS: Css properties, such as width or height determine the shape and size of objects which can represent data points.
  3. Javascript: Using a javascript library that will create SVG or Canvas elements, and add interactive behavior to them

Javascript visualization libraries

There are many popular visualization and charting libraries. Three very popular and robust are:




Building a data driven chart in React step-by-step

We’re going to use Facebook’s excellent Create-react-app starter kit, so first, let’s create a clean install of CRA:

Then install dependancies

Let’s use d3 with the React-vis wrapper. First install the react-vis package into our project

At this time, there is an unmet dependency problem with will prevent the app from compiling, so also install the peer dependency

Finally, run the project

Now the project is running, we can consume the react-vis package in our app. In the “App.js” file (the main component rendered by the app at this time), import the react-vis components and css.

We are now ready to use the components from the react-vis package in our App. Somewhere in your app insert a element:

We can now look at the page in our browser and see the chart rendered:

Creating an API for our chart to consume



Author: Michael Jasper

Michael is a Web Developer located in Northern Utah. When not programming, he enjoys spending time with his family, exploring the great-outdoors, and hit-and-miss cooking experiments.