The Hitchhiker’s Guide to d3.js


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2018-03-20 : 09:53

If all you need is a quick bar or line chart, maybe this article isn’t for you, there are plenty of charting libraries out there for that. If you’re into books, check out Interactive Data Visualization for the Web by Scott Murray as a great place to start. D3.js in Action by Elijah Meeks is a comprehensive way to go much deeper into some regions of the API.

The landscape for learning d3 is rich, vast and sometimes perilous. You may be intimidated by the long list of functions in d3’s API documentation or paralyzed by choice reviewing the dozens of tutorials on the home page. There are over 20,000+ d3 examples you could learn from, but you never know how approachable any given one will be.

If all you need is a quick bar or line chart, maybe this article isn’t for you, there are plenty of charting libraries out there for that. If you’re into books, check out Interactive Data Visualization for the Web by Scott Murray as a great place to start. D3.js in Action by Elijah Meeks is a comprehensive way to go much deeper into some regions of the API.

This guide is meant to prepare you mentally as well as give you some fruitful directions to pursue. There is a lot to learn besides the d3.js API, both technical knowledge around web standards like HTML, SVG, CSS and JavaScript as well as communication concepts and data visualization principles. Chances are you know something about some of those things, so this guide will attempt to give you good starting points for the things you want to learn more about.

Communicate Complex Concepts

Before we dive into data visualization principles and technical skills, lets take a second to be aspirational. There are some amazing examples of what’s possible in this medium, whether its a New York Times article, r2d3,, datasketch|es, polygraph, or ncase. Be sure to leave a comment with any inspirations I didn’t list here!

Don’t just look to others though, one of the most important things you can do is set an aspiration for yourself. I found out from interviewing some of the top data visualization practitioners using d3.js that one of the best ways to learn is to set your sights something you really want to build and figure out what you need to build it.

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