Javascript Chart Libraries - 4 Reasons Not to Use Them in 2023

Mile Zivkovic

Javascript chart libraries are one of the most effective ways to do data visualization in your app. But what if there is something better that SaaS teams can use?

There are a lot of moving parts to an app and at the heart of it all is data. And if your app has customer-facing data, you probably know that understanding pie charts and graphs is a lot easier than reading rows and columns of numbers.

This is where data visualization comes in. There are a few ways to visualize data in your app or website, but your developers probably use Javascript chart libraries.

Today, we’ll find out what they are, what you can use them for and what is a better alternative for the job.

What is a Javascript chart library?

A Javascript chart library is a type of Javascript code that allows development teams to visualize data in the form of charts. Back in the day, a programmer had to collect data from different types of databases to create charts and dashboards that provide valuable data. Nowadays, you can use a chart library to get data from various sources in one place. 

The most common use case for chart libraries is creating visualizations within an app. For example, a dashboard in a social media scheduling tool showing post engagement across different channels.

Different types of chart libraries allow different types of visualizations. Here is a neat comparison of Javascript chart libraries along with what they can and cannot do. For example, some can do line charts and bullets but not timeline charts.

Depending on the dataset you need to visualize, you’ll choose a Javascript library chart that works best of that use case.

4 popular Javascript libraries you should know

If you’re just getting started with data visualization, these are the chart libraries you should consider first.

D3.js - the best all-rounder

The most commonly used chart library is popular for a good reason. The API that D3.js uses is powerful and it works with various formats such as CSS, SVG and HTML. There are plenty of samples you can use to learn from, which you will need to do, as D3.js can be pretty complex for newbie developers. It’s also free.

d3.js javascript chart library

Chart.js - best for teams on a budget

Chart.js is open-source and completely free to use. It supports eight different types of data visualizations, including pie charts, inline charts, radars, area charts and many others. The learning curve is not steep and there is detailed documentation to help you in your chart creation process.

chart.js chart library

Fusioncharts - the best for data visualization

There is a total of 90 charts that you can use in Fusioncharts, making it the most comprehensive option out there. Besides charts, you can also create dashboards and both look stunning. Fusioncharts work and look great across different devices. All of this comes at a price of $439/year which may be worth it if you need a great variety of visualizations across devices.

fusioncharts javascript chart library

Google Charts

If you’re a fan of the Google ecosystem and you’re looking for something free, Google Charts fits the bill perfectly. It supports a good variety of data visualization formats, including scatter plots, geo charts, pie charts, calendar charts and others. The visualizations look great across different devices and they are rendered using HTML5/SVG.

google charts

The pros of using Javascript libraries

Before we jump into the bad stuff, let’s consider a few reasons why a Javascript library is a good option for data visualization.

1. Ease of use and community support

Especially with open-source libraries, there are plenty of communities online (such as GitHub) where you can find support. If you get stuck solving a specific problem, there’s probably someone else that had it before and you can look up a solution quickly.

2. A large selection of libraries to choose from

The four libraries mentioned above are just a starting point. With a little bit of research, you can find many more that suit your needs in terms of ease of use and visualizations. As mentioned before, not all chart libraries have all the visualization types, so it’s worth shopping around to find the best one for your development team’s needs.

The cons of using Javascript chart libraries

Even though they are commonly used in development teams of all sizes, these types of libraries are not ideal for everyone.

1. You still need developers for a large portion of the job

Using a chart library is a neat shortcut for data visualization, but you still need developers to write the code and embed the visualizations in your website or app. If you don’t already have a great Java developer at hand, you’ll need to hire one (expensive) or get an expert freelancer to help (even more expensive). 

2. They are not (really) free

As mentioned above, some Javascript chart libraries are free to grab and use. However, that does not mean that you’ll get them entirely free. When you account for the time to implement them and the hourly wages for your developers, it translates to thousands of dollars in resources. The less your existing team knows about data visualization, the more costly the project gets.

Also, the very best Javascript chart libraries with the most visualizations are not free and have a subscription fee.

3. It takes a long time to ship a finished product

Assume you have your data sources all set up and you know that your customers want to have data visualizations in your product. Depending on how big your development team is, it can take weeks and sometimes months to go from an idea to a finished product.

4. Poor way to validate product ideas

If you’re unsure that customers will find data visualization a valuable aspect of your product, you can create something using Javascript chart libraries. In theory, it’s a good idea, but in practice, it can cost weeks and months of work and thousands of dollars in development costs. And in the end, it may prove to be something that customers don’t use at all.

What to use instead

Javacript chart libraries are a great resource for data visualization, if you have a team of skilled developers and time to spare. But what if that is not the case?

With data visualization tools such as Luzmo, you can eliminate all the downsides of a Javascript chart library.

Luzmo dashboard

First, Luzmo is fast and allows you to go from prototype to a finished product more quickly - in days instead of months compared to developing your own in-app dashboards. This leads us to our second point.

Luzmo allows you to validate your product ideas quickly and without shipping them fully. There is no need to develop a full-fledged dashboard from scratch. Just build one in Luzmo and gather customer feedback instantly.

another Luzmo dashboard

Last but not least, you don’t have to use your own developer resources. A single developer can cost upwards of $100k per year - do you want to use those resources on data visualization or another core product feature your customers are asking for?

Which path should you take?

Building data visualizations with your own team can seem like the only path you can take. However, there is always a choice and you don’t have to resort to using Javascript chart libraries.

Sign up for a free trial of Luzmo and get an alternative to Javascript libraries that saves your time and money!

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