Tag Archives: web design

Intro to Animation with D3.js

This post will provide an introduction to animation using D3.js. Animation simply changes the properties of the visual object over time. This can be useful for help the viewer of the web page to understand key features of the data.

For now we will do the following in terms of animation.

  • Create a simple animation
  • Animate multiple properties
  • Create chained transitions
  • Handling Transitions

Create a Simple Animation

What is new for us in terms of d3.js code for animation is the use of the .transition() and .duration() methods. The transition method provides instructions on how to changing a visual attribute over time. Duration is simply how long the transition takes.

In the code below, we are going to create a simply black rectangle that will turn white and disappear on the screen. This is done by appending an svg that contains a black rectangle into the body element and then have that rectangle turn white and disappear.



This interesting but far from amazing. We simply change the color  or animated one property. Next, we learn how to animate more than one property at a time.

Animating Multiple Properties at Once

You are not limited to only animating one property. In the code below we will change the color will have the rectangle move as well. This id one through the x,y coordinates to the second .attr({}) method. The code and the animation are below.


You can see how the rectangle moves from the top left to the bottom right while also changing colors from black to white thus disappearing. Next, we will look at chained transitions

Chained Transitions

Chained transitions involves have some sort of animation take place. Followed by a delay and then another animation taking place. In order to do this you need to use the .delay() method. This method tells the  browser to wait a specify number of seconds before doing something else.

In our example, we are going to have our rectangle travel diagonally down while also disappearing only tot suddenly travel up while changing back to the color of black. Below is the code followed by the animation.


By now you are starting to see that the only limit to animation in d3.js is your imagination.

Handling Transitions

The beginning and end of a transition can be handle by a .each() method. This is useful when you want to control the style of the element at the beginning and or end of a transition.

In the code below, you will see the rectangle go from red, to green, to orange, to black, and then to gray. At the same time the rectangle will move and change sizes. Notice careful the change from red to green and form black to gray are controlled by .each() methods.



Animation is not to only be used for entertainment. When developing visualizations, an animation should provide additional understanding of the content that you are trying to present. This is important to remember so that d3.js does not suffer the same fate as PowerPoint in that people focus more on the visual effects rather than the content.


Adding labels to Graphs D3.js

In this post, we will look at how to add the following to a bar graph using d3.js.

  • Labels
  • Margins
  • Axes

Before we begin, you need the initial code that has a bar graph already created. This is shown below follow by what it should look like before we make any changes.



The first change is in line 16-19. Here, we change the name of the variable and modify the type of element it creates.


Our next change begins at line 27 and continues until line 38. Here we make two changes. First, we make a variable called barGroup, which selects all the group elements of the variable g. We also use the data, enter, append and attr methods. Starting in line 33 and continuing until line 38 we use the append method on our new variable barGroup to add rect elements as well as the color and size of each bar. Below is the code.


The last step for adding text appears in lines 42-50. First, we make a variable called textTranslator to move our text. Then we append the text to the bargroup variable. The color, font type, and font size are all set in the code below followed by a visual of what our graph looks like now.



Margins serve to provide spacing in a graph. This is especially useful if you want to add axes. The changes in the code take place in lines 16-39 and include an extensive reworking of the code. In lines 16-20 we create several variables that are used for calculating the margins and the size and shape of the svg element. In lines 22-30 we set the attributes for the svg variable. In line 32-34 we add a group element to hold the main parts of the graph. Lastly, in lines 36-40 we add a gray background for effect. Below is the code followed by our new graph. 1.png



In order for this to work, we have to change the value for the variable maxValue to 150. This would give a little more space at the top of the graph. The code for the axis goes form line 74 to line 98.

  • Line 74-77 we create variables to set up the axis so that it is on the left
  • Lines 78-85 we create two more variables that set the scale and the orientation of the axis
  • Lines 87-99 sets the visual characteristics of the axis.

Below is the code followed by the updated graph


You can see the scale off to the left as planned..


Make bar graphs is a basic task for d3.js. Although the code can seem cumbersome to people who do not use JavaScript. The ability to design visuals like this often outweighs the challenges.

Making Bar Graphs with D3.js

This post will provide an example of how to make a basic bar graph using d3.js. Visualizing data is important and developing bar graphs in one way to communicate information efficiently.

This post has the following steps

  1. Initial Template
  2. Enter the data
  3. Setup for the bar graphs
  4. Svg element
  5. Positioning
  6. Make the bar graph

Initial Template

Below is what the initial code should look like.


Entering the Data

For the data we will hard code it into the script using an array. This is not the most optimal way of doing this but it is the simplest for a first time experience.  This code is placed inside the second script element. Below is a picture.


The new code is in lines 10-11 save as the variable data.

Setup for the Bars in the Graph

We are now going to create three variables. Each is explained below

  • The barWidth variable will indicate ho wide the bars should be for the graph
  • barPadding variable will put space between the bars in the graph. If this is set to 0 it would make a histogram
  • The variable maxValue scales the height of the bars relative to the largest observation in the array. This variable uses the method .max() to find the largest value.

Below is the code for these three variables


The new information was added in lines 13-14

SVG Element

We can now begin to work with the svg element. We are going to create another variable called mainGroup. This will assign the svg element inside the body element using the .select() method. We will append the svg using .append and will set the width and height using .attr. Lastly, we will append a group element inside the svg so that all of our bars are inside the group that is inside the svg element.

The code is getting longer, so we will only show the new additions in the pictures with a reference to older code. Below is the new code in lines 16-19 directly  under the maxValue variable.



New=x we need to make three functions.

  • The first function will calculate the x location of the bar graph
  • The second function  will calculate the y location of the bar graph
  • The last function will combine the work of the first two functions to place the bar in the proper x,y coordinate in the svg element.

Below is the code for the three functions. These are added in lines 21-251

The xloc function starts in the bottom left of the mainGroup element and adds the barWidth plus the barPadding to make the next bar. The yloc function starts in the top left and subtracts the maxValue from the given data point to calculate the y position. Lastly, the translator combines the output of both the xloc and the yloc functions to position bar using the translate method.

Making the Graph

We can now make our graph. We will use our mainGroup variable with the .selectAll method with the rect argument inside. Next, we use .data(data) to add the data, .enter() to update the element, .append(“rect”) to add the rectangles. Lastly, we use .attr() to set the color, transformation, and height of the bars. Below is the code in lines 27-36 followed by actual bar graph. 1.png


The graph is complete but you can see that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve it. However, that will be done in a future post.

SVG and D3.js

Scalable Vector Graphics or SVG for short is a XML markup language that is the standard for creating vector-based graphics in web browsers. The true power of d3.js is unlocked through its use of svg elements. Employing vectors allows for the image that are created to be various sizes based on scale.

One unique characteristic of svg is that the coordinate system starts in the upper left with the x axis increases as normal from left to right. However, the y axis starts from the top and increases going down rather than the opposite of increasing from the bottom up. Below is a visual of this.


You can see that (0,0) is in the top left corner. As you go to the right the x-axis increases and as you go down the y axis increases.  By changing the x, y axis values you are able to position your image where you want it. If you’re curious the visual above was made using d3.js.

For the rest of post, we will look at different svg elements that can be used in making visuals. We will look at the following

  • Circles
  • Rectangles/squares
  • Lines & Text
  • Paths


Below is the code for making circle followed by the output



To make a shape such as the circles above, you first must specify the size of the svg element as shown in line 6. Then you make a circle element. Inside the circle element you must indicate the x and y position (cx, cy) and also the radius (r). The default color is black however you can specify other colors as shown below.


To change the color simply add the style argument and indicate the fill and color in quotations.


Below is the code for making rectangles/squares. The arguments are slightly different but this should not be too challenging to figure out.


The x, y arguments indicate the position and the width and height arguments determine the size of the rectangle, square.

Lines & Text

Lines are another tool in d3.js. Below is the code for drawing a line.



The code should not be too hard to understand. You now need to separate coordinates. This is because the line needs to start in one place and draw until it reaches another. You can also control the color of the line and the thickness.

You can also add text using svg. In the code below we combine the line element with the text element.


With the text element after you set the position, font, font size, and color, you have to also add your text in-between the tags of the element.


The path element is slightly trickier but also more powerful when compared to the elements we have used previously. Below is the code and output from using the path element.


The path element has a mini-language all to its self. “M” is where the drawing begins and is followed by the xy coordinate. “L”  draw a line. Essentially, it takes the original position and draws a line to next position. “V” indicates a vertical line. Lastly, “Z” means to close the path.

In the code below here is what it literally means

  1. Start at 40, 40
  2. Make a line from 40, 40 to 250, 40
  3. Make another line from 250, 40 to 140, 40
  4. Make a vertical line from 140,40 to 4,40
  5. Close the path

Using path can be much more complicated than this. However, this is enough for an introduction


This was just a teaser of what is possible with d3.js. The ability to make various graphics based on data is something that we have not even discussed yet. As such, there is much more to look forward to when using this visualization tool.

Intro to D3.js

D3.js is a JavaScript library that is useful for manipulating HTML documents. D3. js stands for Data Driven Documents JavaScript and was developed by Mike Bobstock. One of the primary purposes of D3.js is for data visualization. However, D3.js can do more than just provide data visualization as it can also allow for interaction binding, item selection, and dynamic styling of DOM (document object model) elements.

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.

First Script

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.

More Examples

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.