In order to use D3.js you should have a basic understanding of HTML. For data visualization you should have some idea of basic statistics and data visualization concepts in order to know what it is you want to visualize. You also need to pick some sort of IDE so that you can manipulate your code. Lastly, you must know how to start a server on your local computer so you can see the results of your work.
In this post, we will make document that will use D3.js to make the phrase “Hello World”.
Below is a bare minimum skeleton that an HTML document often has
Line 1 indicates the document type. Line 2 indicates the beginning of the html element. The html element can be used to store information about the page. Next, in line 6 is the body element. This is where the content of the web page is mostly kept. Notice how the information is contained in the various elements. All code is contained within the html element and the head and body elements are separate from one another.
We are now going to add our first few lines of d3.js code to our html document. Below is the code.
The code within the body element is new. In line 7-8 we are using a script element to access the d3.js library. Notice how it is a link. This means that when we run the code the d3.js library is access from some other place on the internet. An alternative to this is to download d3.js yourself. If you do this d3.js must be in the same folder as the html document that you are making.
To get d3.js from the internet you use the src argument and the place the web link in quotations. The charset argument is the setting for the character encoding. Sometimes this information is important but it depends.
The second script element is where we actually do something with d3.js. Inside this second script element we have in line 10 the command d3.select(‘body’) this tells d3.js to select the first body element in the document. In line 11 we have the command .append(‘h1’) this tells d3.js to add an h1 heading in the body element. Lastly, we have the .text(‘Hello World’). This tells d3.js to add the text ‘Hello World’ to the h1 heading in the body element. This process of adding one command after another to modify the same object is called chaining.
When everything is done and you show your results you should see the following.
This is not the most amazing thing to see given what d3.js can do but it serves as an introduction.
You are not limited to only one line of code or only one script element. Below is a more advanced version.
The new information is in lines 14-20. Lines 14-15 are just two p elements with some text. Lines 17-19 is another script element. This time we use the d3.selectAll(‘p’) which tells d3.js to apply the following commands to all p elements. In line 19 we use the .style command to set the background color to light blue. When this is done you should see the following.
Still not amazing, but things were modified as we wanted. Notice also that the second script element is not inside the body element. This is not necessary because you never see script elements in a website. Rather, you see the results of such a code.
This post introduce d3.js, which is a powerful tool for visualization. Although the examples here are fairly simple, you can be assured that there is more to this library than what has been explored so far.