Flourish by Jessica and Lisha

Data visulaization of the passengers of Titanic,
Choose different categories to comapre and explore who were on the unfortunate ship.

What kind of data did you test it with?

We decided to use the Titanic dataset and chose the template “survey” where you can create an interactive dot visualization where the user self can click and choose what to compare.


What type of output? 

You can get the output of Flourish both embedded and in png, depending on what template you use. The interactive visualization which you get embedded does have a made with Flourish-icon, which does not look that good when published in a serious newspaper. However, you can pay for Flourish, and hopefully the icon then disappears.


Learning curve

Flourish is fairly user-friendly mainly depending on what template you choose to work with. When it comes to creating bar charts, for example, Flourish is really easy to use – if you have the right data for it.

With the template Survey (the one used at the top of the post),  which creates interactive visualizations, it took a little longer for us to understand how everything worked. We soon figured out how to get the data in the right columns, by selecting if the data/answer of the question was categorical, continuous, geographic or metadata. However, as you can see the geographic part did not work, probably because we need to sort the places into a language that Flourish understands, which probably is latitudes and longitudes of the places. 

Input

Flourish accepts excel files and you can clean and change the data in Flourish. However, what is really annoying is that once you choose to work with a Flourish template you do not get a clean sheet to work with, but the example sheet. This means that you have to delete all the earlier sheets, data and options to not mix them up with the new data you have uploaded. 

Output

The output does look very professional and advanced. However, the output may require a lot of time and interest of the user, which he or she might not have.

Flexibility and customizability?


When it comes to the flexibility, Flourish allow you to change colors and style by selecting from big set of options, you can do all these changes online without the need to download the tool to your computer, it allows to you publish and embed by getting a link to be used in your website of publication website, also you can download the and save the project to your server. Using flourish allows you to customize using easy functions such as selecting from drop-down list that includes the categories and variable in your data, filtering options, are Grouped by, Shade by, Size by and Compare.

Screenshots from your experiments (you can embed interactive vis if you want to)

 

What kind of data does it visualise?  

The data should be in column and rows formats and can be uploaded or copied/pasted from excel.

Is it useful for journalists? What kind of journalists?

The tool is a good tool in term of visualization of statistical data and allow you to explore the data by forming different connections between the data categories and variables in the statistics. Thus it is useful for journalism who want to build a data journalism stories and visualize it in a simple way to readers.


What is the cost? Is there a free account, and is it limited by time, features or non-profit?

Flourish has a three types of account, Free, Personal and Business.

Free account does not have a time limit, it allows you do use basic functions including the core templates, maps and charts, it also allows you to embed projects on your website, create stories and presentations, save images for offline use.

Private account cost 45 Euro per month, it has all the basic features available under the free account, but also allow the users to add privacy to their data, download and self-host projects, in addition to providing a customer service support.

Business account: The cost is not provided, we contacted them and they said that the business account cost is decided in link to how many users the company or the organization need to use. The business account allows the organizations to upload custom templates, collaboration and team management, provide additional training to the users and customized development solutions.

Piktochart

by Matthew Weaver & Felicia Bredenberg

What it does

Piktochart is an online application which allows users to create simple visuals, presentations and infographics using themed templates. The program is primarily for those without prior graphic design experience.

Input and output

Pictochart accepts image files, such as gifs and jpegs and tables such as excel files.

The pro version includes an html publisher that allows users to create visuals that can be embedded on a website and enable users to include interactive elements such as, charts, videos, map visualizations and animation.

In the free trial version you can only download your work in PNG-format with a watermark, but of course one can get around that with file converters.

Pros and cons

We tested with our own data at first, attempting to input an Excel file of Naloxone prescriptions by sex and region in Sweden and had some issues in that it seems to not be able to manage too large of datasets well—the graphs came out unreadable and we had some difficulty finding a legend. In this case it would benefit the user to pare down and simplify their datasets beforehand.

We tried the tool out by making a little infographic of our class. There we included a map where our classmates origin of birth are marked. To make a simple infographic was VERY easy and actually quite fun. With a shallow learning curve, and ideal for those in a hurry to produce simple visualizations, but it is not without its limitations—probably not the best tool out there if one desires more complicated charts and visualizations.

Prices are, for the basic, starting at 12 USD per month, to pro (24.17USD) and Pro Team (for businesses) at 85 dollars—the latter 2 include no watermark, more than 600 templates, HD exports, password protection, integrated Export Platforms. Whereas the light has watermarks and a limit of image uploads. 

To summarize – Piktochart is fairly handy for infographics and maps (albeit simple ones) but not for more advanced projects.  We don’t think it would be used by serious journalists, but rather bloggers, teachers, and for class projects, businesses and wedding invitations, for example.

 

 

RAW Graphs

Function (input and output)

RAW Graphs is an open source visualisation tool, meant to function as a link between numbers in a spreadsheet and vector graphics editors, by translating user-inputted data into nice visualisations. It manages files of TSV, CSV, DSV, JSON and Excel format. The user can then choose between 21 different types of charts how to visualise the data.

 

What kind of data did you test it with?

Finding a dataset clean enough for RAW to understand it proved to be a challenge. We therefore opted for running one of RAW’s own datasets. We chose data of the largest cities in each continent by population and visualised it in a sunburst chart. The default setting of an ordinal colour scale made the chart look very pretty, but a linear one further helps the audience to interpret the numbers. See the difference below:

 

 

Critique

In order to successfully visualise data, the user has to be very familiar with their dataset. It is also important that the data is clean and simple enough for RAW to interpret. The variables are automatically interpreted as strings or numbers, just as in Tableau. RAW however sometimes interprets them wrong, and it is not possible to manually change a string into a number.

On the positive side, it is completely free to use, and there is no need to sign up or to create an account. The design of the application is nice and easy to navigate. Also, it accepts many formats for input and offers various formats for saving the output. It also automatically generates a SVG code that can be embedded directly to a website. WordPress is however not compatible with SVG, unless a SVG support plug-in is installed.

 

Journalistic use

RAW does keep its promise of being an in-between of a spreadsheet application and for example Illustrator. While Excel is not capable of generating the prettiest visualisations, and Illustrator needs a visualisation as base, RAW saves a lot of time by being a little bit of both. Time is always the main challenge for a journalist, so that is a great advantage of RAW. Creating the visualisation in itself is not complicated, why the journalist does not need to possess much visualisation knowledge in order to pull it off, as long as they are familiar with the dataset.

 

Costs

RAW Graphs is open source and free to use for anyone, for any purpose. It does not require any type of account and asks no questions.

 

Advices to fellow classmates

RAW is more simple to use than Tableau, in that there are less functions to learn. The idea is simple and works well, as long as you are well familiar with your dataset and know what type of chart you want to show – RAW will not help you with this. If you’re unsure of what type of chart to use, there are tutorials for all types under the tab “Learning”.

It is similar to Tableau, however, and if you know which boxes to drag which variables the idea is all the same. When you get your output it is easy to alter the colours and scales to better match what you had in mind.

A downside is that it is not possible to make the charts interactive. Another feature that we missed was the possibility of plotting the numbers on a map. If this type of chart is what you’re looking for, RAW is not the right tool. Otherwise it is definitely worth a try as it is basically a quicker and simpler (and free) alternative to Tableau.

Not anywhere on the site is it stated how the data is protected, and which security measures are taken on. We interprets this lack of information to that there simply are no measures taken to protect the information you upload. Depending on what you are visualising, this could be good to keep in mind.

 

Fredrika Fellman and Pernilla Stammler Jaliff

Infogram – Interactive charts, graphics and maps

*For more interactivity click to the visualisations

What kind of data did you test it with?

We used various databases such as life expectancy from the excel workshops, alcohol consumption from the World Bank (indicators), population, area and GDP from infogram’s example databases, population size from the World Bank as well and city population through years for Stockholm and Gothenburg from worldpopulationreview.com and population.city respectively.

What type of output?

Depending on the subscription, ranging from Basic to Enterprise (see more here), the data can be downloaded in various formats. However, the basic version only allows you to download in JPG/PNG or PDF format, involving no interaction. The interactions can be accessed through a public link, private is only possible if you pay.

Learning curve (difficulty)

It is a very user friendly online tool, that is suitable for beginners (as us). As you play with the data you learn how it is possible to change and develop the different visualizations. We recommend you to clean the data in advance. There are also several templates you can use (e.g. maps, graphs, reports) and templates for different formats such as Facebook or Twitter.

Input

The infogram supports all types of xls, xlsx, csv files and also gives you the ability to input images and video.

Output visualisation choices

Infogram has a great variety of options to visualize your data. There are templates available for infographics, reports, dashboards, facebook posts, charts and maps that you can use but of course you can create something on your own. You can also choose the type of your project if that would be for example a twitter or instagram post or even a youtube video thumbnail. Most of the visuals are of a high aesthetic level and look very professional.

On the other hand the visualizations can only be exported as JPG/PDF files in the free version and this mean that is more suitable for static designs. If you need the interactivity in your visualisations, then you have to upgrade your version by paying a monthly fee.

Flexibility and customizability?  

There are two different ways to create visualisations with Infogram. You can either use templates and themes that are already built and gives you quicker nice designed options or create visualisations on your own by modifying it as you wish by changing colors, sizes, icons, data format and depending the visualisation, you have various different kinds of options.

What kind of data does it visualise?

Infogram can be used for different kinds of data, such as election results (e.g. maps) or developments over time such as GDP or population size (e.g. line charts and other, more interesting visualizations). It can also be used to create other infographics, reports or visualizations for social media. With regard to maps, they are not as detailed and only a few different maps are available in the free version, to get access to all maps you need to upgrade to the pro version (19 USD/month). The tool always shows you all options but you can clearly see which options that are available to you and which options you need an upgrade for (and which level of upgrade you need). This way, we saw that maps of Swedish counties and municipalities are available, but we could not use them as these are only available with the pro version. A world map and maps over US states, Europe, Africa and Asia are among the maps available with the basic version.

Is it useful for journalists?

Yes, it is easy to learn, looks professional and is for free (as long as you do not feel the need to export interactive design and as long as you are not concerned about protecting your data).

What kind of journalists?

Journalists who are not experts in visualization but still wants to include professional looking visualizations in their work.

What is the cost?

The cost depends on which subscription you choose and it ranges from the basic version (free) to team (149 USD/month) and enterprise (available on request).

Is there a free account, and is it limited by time, features or non-profit?

The free account does not have a time limit, although it has other restrictions, e.g. on privacy, download options and the amount of visualizations you can create. For example the free version does not have access to as many templates, maps or export options (e.g. not interactive export options). Privacy is also an issue in the free version (basic), as the interactivity in the visualizations can only be “exported” as a public link.

Here is the link with the interactive visualisations

Maria Ljung, Christos Makrygiannis

CARTO

Function (input and output)

Carto visualizes location data and creates interactive maps. The tool can also be used for data analysis to see main trends and patterns (business orientation). You have the option to embed your map, make it interactive. Readers can hover around the map and click around. You can also create legends and pop-ups.

What kind of data did you test it with?

We managed to import a ZIP-file with bike lanes from the Municipality of Gothenburg, containing a SHP, SHX, PRJ and DBF file, which worked fine. It did not however manage to read another ZIP-file containing the same formats due to the fact that they were wrongly encoded (CODIO needs a UTF-8 encoding), despite also being from the Municipality of Gothenburg.


The above result is displaying bike lanes in Gothenburg imported from a shape-file.

Critique

CARTO is really easy to understand in terms of navigation the site. A bit more difficult in terms of the input sources not being able to exceed 10 characters and demanding a certain encoding style. However, the option for output is great. You can choose between a great deal of base maps, create up to eight different layers and combine your files with a background. It looks good, is of decent quality and possible to make interactive.

The tool is quite advanced. The site of the tool however provides lessons and tutorials to everyone eager to learn. After all, we were able to create a default map as well as create our own design, which means it is good for location data visualization and when wanting to display something geographically.

Journalistic use

It’s useful for data journalists working with location data (i.e. that has an idea of how to import data into the tool) and wants to create maps to accompany a journalistic piece. It is also relevant for journalists who want to create something interactive!

Costs

CARTO offers a 30-day free trial for anyone, is free for student and (non-commercial) researchers as well for some media outlets and NGO’s. However, the free version does not include the option to hide your data. For all others, and those who want to make their work private, a subscription costs 149$ per month.

Advices to fellow classmates

This map is similar to Tableau in it’s functions and the way you can look at your data. It might even be a bit more simple to use depending on what style you prefer. If you are on a computer without Tableau, want to quickly embed something interactive or find Tableu difficult then we suggest you give this a try.

Be aware of the fact that you will have to apply for a student account (connected to GitHub) and that this might take a few days. Register before we are done with our masters program!

Also think about the fact that there is no possibility to protect the data you import to the service. CARTO writes the following:

“We use industry standard physical, managerial, and technical safeguards to preserve the integrity and security of your personal information. We cannot, however, ensure the security of any information you transmit to the Service, and you do so at your own risk. Depending on where you live, you may have a legal right to receive notice of a security breach in writing or by emailing us at support@carto.com”.

By: Elin Ackerberg and Lilya Makashova

Maria Jozina Stam and Sophia

TimelineJS

What it does 

TimelineJS is a tool used to build interactive timelines. Media in different formats and from different sources, such as Twitter, Youtube, Vine, Google Maps, Soundclouds, to name a few, are compatible. The tool was created by Knightlab which is a community of developers, students, designers and educators devoted to exploring new ways to design and visualize journalism. TimelineJS is their most popular tool, available in more than 60 languages and used by more than 250,000 people.

This tool is efficient for visualizing most kinds of temporal data. It is useful for journalists, since it is an interactive and illustrative way to show a chain of events or a chronological development. Timeline can be used for free. There is a downloadable template which can be used with your google drive for you to fill it in and create your own timeline. However, when you work with sensitive information working with this tool through Google Spreadsheet will not be a good fit as your information will not be kept private. There is another way to make a timeline with TimelineJS that allows you to control who can see your information but which includes javascript and coding.

Testing the tool

We used the Alcohol Policy Timeline Database by the WHO and the data of the important events of the development of the Swedish Alcohol Policy (events/text sorted by years).

You copy a template from the Timeline when you click “get started!”, this will take you to a Google spreadsheet were you fill in the information to make your own timeline. So, you don’t upload a dataset but rather do much of the work manually. In the beginning it takes some time to figure out how to fill in the timeline, you have to delete the examples and find a way to fill in your own information. When you get the hang of this, it is pretty easy to use.

You can not change any of the headings or delete any columns. When you leave them empty, for example the end date of an event, this column will simply not show up in your timeline. On the other end, when you leave rows empty the timeline will fill this in as one year. Because of this, the first timeline we created went on until 2050, which obviously did not visualize the few years of change relevant for our timeline (from 2006 to 2011) very well.

When you are finished you have to use “File > Publish to web”, in order to get the link to your timeline. You need the Timeline website to make the actual interactive page. There is a guide on how this works, which is pretty easy to follow. You simply upload the link to their website. Here you can open optional settings to adjust the design, to change the fonts for example.

 

Evaluating the tool

We think that this is a really good tool for all kinds of journalist wanting to create illustrative timelines to visualize temporal data that doesn’t contain too many events and when you don’t have too particular demands on a customized design. However, those with JSON skills can also create custom installations, while keeping the core functions of TimelineJS.

In the beginning you have to figure out in which rows/columns you have to write the information. It is not difficult to work with, but you don’t see the outcome of the timeline while you’re filling it in, not until you export it to a website. You can get a preview of the timeline when you upload the link to the website, but this means you have to publish it everytime you want to see the changes. A tip: fill in some information first, and publish the timeline to see what it actually does. This gives you a better view on how to fill in the information and understand the tool.

You have to fill in the information manually, this can be tedious work and take a lot of time when you have a big timeline. The website does give you some tips, where they say that you have to keep it short and recommends no more than 20 events. This tool will for this reason not be so efficient for visualizing a long time period with too many events (many separate pieces of information). You can upload images using URLs, give them captions but it can be a bit hard if you later want to change the place of the image. Since you are working in a template, it will stay at the same place since you can not change the columns.  

Here we can see a slide in the Timeline without an image

The output is also a bit difficult to change when you want to work on the design. Under the “help” section of the Timelines website you can read about changing colors and the background in the CSS rules of Timeline. This is not simple, which the Knightlab team warns you about. But you can change fonts and the size of the text quite easily. And while filling in the template you can easily choose which text should be headline.

In this timeline we added an image

We can not show you the actual interactive timeline we created embedded into the blog, as you need a plugin for TimelineJS to work with WordPress. But if you are interested in this tool, you can test it quickly by using the Google Spreadsheet we created and used. On the Knightlab website, you can also easily find their template to use with your own dataset.