Javascript Chart Libraries - 4 Reasons Not to Use Them in 2024

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May 10, 2024
Javascript Chart Libraries - 4 Reasons Not to Use Them in 2024

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?

A SaaS app has many moving parts, and data is at the heart of it all. If your app has customer-facing data, you probably know that understanding pie charts and graphs is a lot easier for your users 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, among which 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, and manually code charts and dashboards to visualize that valuable data. Nowadays, you can use a chart library as a sort of reusable blueprint for your charts and dashboards.

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 bullet charts, but not stock charts.

Depending on the dataset you need to visualize, you’ll choose different chart types that works best for that use case.

11 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 with no experience with DOM. 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 with this JS library and it has detailed developer docs to help you in your chart creation process.

Chart.js renders chart elements on an HTML5 canvas, which is much more performant than rendering as SVG, like most D3-based libraries do. On top of that, if you use the various available plugins, you can get even more out of Chart.js.

chart.js chart library

Recharts - for fans of React

Recharts is a composable chart library built on top of React components. To build charts, you can use SVG elements on top of a D3 submodule. It allows ample opportunities for modification, which is one of the reasons it’s used globally by companies such as Ahrefs.

While it can be a bit slow when working with large data sets, it more than makes up for it with its customization capabilities and ease of use. Its extensive TypeScript support is why Recharts is a popular choice among React developers.

PS. Make sure to check out our piece on React dashboard libraries.

recharts chart library

Highcharts - the best for easy chart creation

Highcharts allows you to create charts in SVG and then convert them to VML. While their motto is “simply visualize”, the way the dashboards look is not exactly impressive compared to some other contenders. However, the backward compatibility with older IE versions as well as the wide variety of demos make it an interesting choice.

If you’re handy with Javascript, this library will be extremely simple to master. On top of the ease of use, there is a very rich documentation library that can help you get started rapidly.

highcharts chart library

Apexcharts - for open-source charts with annotations

Looking for something that is open-source, easy to use, has beautiful visualizations and allows annotations? Apexcharts has you covered. According to their documentation, this library supports all charting features, including annotations, which are not so common among its competitors.

Besides charts, Apexcharts has a separate product called Reveal, which allows you to do embedded analytics and add charts into your website or product. Apexcharts supports Angular, Vue, React and other frameworks.

apexcharts 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, with interactive animations for the end user.

It supports jQuery, Angular, Django, React, PHP, Net, Ruby and many other types of frameworks.

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 - for a large variety of chart types

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.

You can use Google Charts to create bar charts, Gantt charts, donut charts, scatter plots, maps and many other chart types.

google charts

ECharts - for high-performant charts

If fast-loading charts are important to you, ECharts is a great contender. They support both HTML5 canvas rendering and SVG, making it possible to render large amounts of data in realtime.

This makes it a great library for advanced analytics use cases, like real-time data monitoring or visualizing time series data. It’s highly compatible with JSON data, and offers a Python wrapper too, which makes it a versatile solution.

Example of ECharts JS library

amCharts - best for map visualizations

If you need to visualize geographical data, amCharts is worth checking out. They’ve bundled hundreds of country and regional maps to choose from, both in high and low detail. Their website offers a bunch of interactive demos to browse through.

Example of maps in amCharts

Chartist - for simple, responsive charts

Chartist is a great option if you’re looking for simple charts with plenty of customization options. What we like most is their animation and transition features, which allow you to apply CSS animations to your SVG-based charts. With media queries, you can make charts look good on any device, whether it’s Windows, iOS or Android.

Chartist.js - animated visualization

C3.js - a simpler, lightweight version of D3.js

If you want to leverage the power of D3.js, but you don’t want to go through the learning curve, have a look at C3.js. This API built on top of D3.js makes it easier to create charts without having to write D3 code. However, it is definitely on the simplistic side, lacking deeper functionality that other tools on this list do offer.


The pros of using JS charting 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 or go through tutorials and demos to find out how to do something.

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 JS charting 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) if you run into front-end or back-end issues.

For example, if you want to add tooltips, annotations or some other complex functionality, you’re going to need professional web development help.

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. Going from data points to interactive charts can be very complex.

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.

Example of Luzmo charts vs JS chart libraries embedded in your software app

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.

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, while giving your users real-time insights to make data-driven decisions!

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