Roslyn Zolandor Team : User Experience and Information Architecture

Charting Options for your Website

Roslyn Zolandor Team : User Experience and Information Architecture

Let’s face it, we’re a visual society.  The graphics you use on your website are as critical to your success as the actual content, if not more so.  We also tend to process information presented visually much quicker and often with a greater understanding that information we must read and comprehend.  It’s no surprise that presenting information in charts is a powerful way to convey your message, whether it is the effectiveness of a new product or the results of a research.  However, including charts hasn’t always been the easiest task. 

In the past, your best approach for including charts was to use a program such as Microsoft Excel to create your chart.  You would then have to convert this chart to an image and upload it to your site.  While this would create a fairly nice looking chart the process was tedious and produced static results.  If the data within the chart changed the update was a manual process.  Since the result was an image, users could not interact with the information.

Today there are numerous options for adding dynamic charts to your website with options to fit various budgets and required feature sets.

The Google Chart API produces charts in the PNG format that can be embedded on your webpage.  This tool can produce several types of charts such as a bar chart, a scatter plot or a map.  It also provides a wide range of formatting options for manipulating colors, fonts and labeling.  Since Google provides this tool free of charge, it is a great option for the budget conscious who need basic charting abilities.  This tool may not be the best option for displaying frequently updated information.  Since the result is a PNG file, users are not able to interact with the chart to obtain more in-depth information. 
If you are interested in a real time charting experience that allows users to interact with the information presented you may want to consider a tool such as FushionCharts or .NetCharting.  Unlike the Google Chart API, these tools will require an investment.  However, the number of chart types  and available customizations is remarkable.  If you are presenting a great deal of data in your chart such as with sales trending, your users will benefit from the ability to drill down or to review specific plot points.  These advanced tools offer this type of functionality.
No matter which option you chose, presenting your data in a visual format is sure to catch the attention of your visitors and help clarify your point.