A well-drawn chart with interesting data can be an extremely powerful way to tell a good story. And you don’t have to be a statistician or a graphic designer to put one together. There are plenty of terrific, and often free, tools out there that will take your ugly tables of data copied and pasted straight from Excel and turn them into beautiful charts.
We’ve found 3 that, once you’ve tried them, you’ll want to keep using again and again. Charts are a great way to tell stories. They are also going to get shared on social media much faster than a simple link to a densely written blog. So get that data you’ve been sitting on and start making some eye-catching charts that will get your blog going viral!
For simple and quick charts
We’ve started with this wonderful site because it’s probably the simplest and easiest to get started with, even if you’re an absolute beginner.
Developed by ABZV, a journalism training organisation affiliated to the German Association of Newspaper Publishers, this completely free open-source tool aims to keep things simple and quick.
The process is split up into 4 steps.
- Paste in your raw data (or upload a .csv file if you’d prefer)
- Check your data in a table and describe what it’s about
- Chose the chart type you want and design how it’ll look
- Start sharing!
There are 9 different chart types you can chose from, or you can opt for a simple table. What’s so great about Datawrapper is how quickly you can create and start sharing something. While your options are a little limited, there’s not a huge amount of tweaking necessary and there are fewer distractions so you have to focus on telling a simple story clearly and concisely. And that’s really what a good chart is all about.
There are a couple of nice little tricks you can use on Datawrapper. You can chose to highlight a specific piece of information on the chart at the click of a button. This is great if you’re telling a story about a particular brand or a particular demographic and you want to draw people’s attention to that. You can also pick the exact colours you want for each piece of data.
Datawrapper also allows you to include a link to the source of your data (this is designed for journalists after all). This is a nice touch and, of course, a nice thing to do!
For seriously detailed maps
If you’re ready for something a little more advanced take a look at this comprehensive map-making tool.
CartoDB lets you input all sorts of data so you can create arresting maps that tell a global story. Start by trying country codes (such as US or GB for the States and Britain – get a full list here) and chose between a chloropleth or category map depending on whether you have quantitative or qualitative data.
There’s some very clever stuff going on here. Chose between several types of scale: from simple equal intervals to Jenks optimisation (if your data isn’t very evenly spaced out or you have a few outliers. You can also chose the colours and layout that suits you and if you’re really feeling keen you can adjust the CSS of the map itself.
It’s also possible to input other types of Georeference data such as latitude and longitude or even IP addresses. If you’ve got some data like this, try creating a bubble-map like the ones you may have seen epidemiologists use when tracking a virus across the world.
A nice touch on these maps is the ability to let readers to click on a country and see a pop-up label with data about it. Export your map and embed it as an iframe or share the link.
CartoDB isn’t free forever but there’s some pretty serious stuff under the hood that you can get your hands dirty with straight away on the free trial.
For stylish infographics
We talked about Piktochart recently as a great tool for making Infographics. Well it does a pretty good job at charts too!
If you want to make something a little more stylised and fit it into a beautiful infographic this is the one for you.
Piktochart’s chart building features are really simple to use, unlike a lot of tools out there. You can paste in data to the table in the app or upload a Google Doc. Click on the settings button for each chart to see what you can change about the look and feel of your chart. Generally their charts look great already, with bright colours, soft edges and interactive design.
It’s really easy to share a Piktochart infographic. Embed it as an iframe like we have or tweet it straight away with the social sharing buttons!
There you go. 3 fantastic tools for you to start playing with today. Enjoy!