The rise of JS based charting solutions
Our clients often want to represent data visually, either on internal dashboards or with client facing graphics. We have produced many such chart applications in the past, typically leveraging pre-built or custom Flash based charting solutions. The JS charts didn’t look very good, the interaction (rollovers, etc.) wasn’t very rich, and the animation was often jerky if not unsupported altogether. The static images generated by server side packages lacked the interactivity and animation of the Flash versions. The Flash charts required no server side work, they could be “plugged into” a page, “styled” to look like the site, and fed their data with XML (either static or dynamic). A good example of a flash based charting solution we have leveraged many times is Fusion Charts.
The landscape does seem to be changing somewhat. This is due to 3 contributing factors:
What does this all mean? Our recommendations nowadays are usually to use either a hybrid — Flash if you’ve got it, otherwise JS or pure HTML and JS charts for our clients. Certain visualizations and charts (maps with zooms for instance) may still not be there with JS and HTML, but for the vast majority of charts and graphs, Flash only is no longer the only viable option.